It’s one of the first things many people fear when they experience a sharp, lingering pain in their lower back – a herniated disc.
While that may well be the case, there are many possible reasons for lumbar pain, so don’t jump to that conclusion just yet.
First of all, low back pain is very common. It is estimated that 60 to 80 percent of people will experience it at one time or another. However, there are ways to distinguish between a herniated disc and some other source of lumbar pain.
What Is in the Spine?
Your spine is composed of 33 bones called vertebrae that are connected one on top of another to form a canal that protects your spinal cord, which runs down through the center. There are five vertebrae in your lower back called the lumbar spine.
Between every two adjacent vertebrae are rubbery cushions called spinal discs, and these prevent the bones from rubbing up against each other. These discs have a tough exterior and a soft interior.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
When the softer interior of a spinal disc bulges out of a rupture in the exterior, it is known as a herniated disc. While a herniated disc can cause severe pain, most sufferers feel better after a few weeks or months of nonsurgical treatment. If the condition doesn’t heal on its own, surgery may be required.
While low back pain can be the first sign of a herniated disc, there are other symptoms and factors to consider. These include:
· Sciatica, which is a sharp, shooting tingling pain that extends all the way from the buttock down the back of one leg. Usually, this pain is caused by a herniated disc that’s putting pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower spine.
· Numbness or a tingling sensation felt in your leg and/or foot.
· Weakness in your leg and/or foot.
· A loss of bladder or bowel control. This is a rare occurrence that could be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, which is a condition caused by compressed spinal nerve roots, requiring immediate medical attention.
Other Causes of Back Pain
The symptoms listed above don’t necessarily mean you have a herniated disc. For example, while sciatica is triggered by an irriation of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine, this can also be caused by a number of other conditions, including:
· Spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal canal
· Spondylolisthesis, in which one vertebra slips forward, over the disc and onto another vertebra
· A compressed nerve caused by pregnancy
· A mere muscle spasm in your back or buttocks
Meanwhile, a loss of bladder or bowel control, as well as numbness in your legs, could be caused by diabetes, a neurological disease, stress, or medicinal side effects.
Contact an Orthopedic Doctor in Tennessee
All of this is why it is important to consult with an orthopedic specialist at the first sign of severe low back pain to receive proper diagnosis of your condition and appropriate, effective treatment.
Our team at Watauga Orthopaedics – which consists of physical therapists, occupational therapists, certified hand therapists, and athletic trainers – will work with you and your physician to develop your customized and multidisciplinary healing plan.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (423) 282-9011. You can also schedule an appointment online with one of our providers. We look forward to hearing from you today.