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Lumbar disc disorder can happen as people get older and the discs start to dry out, or it can happen if there is a severe trauma that causes one of the discs to collapse, explode, or herniate [HER-nee-ate]. It affects the discs of the lower spine, above the hips and tailbone area, but below the ribs.
As the discs either dry out due to age or are weakened due to trauma, sometimes the disc can collapse or compress. This may cause it to lose its shape and bulge out from in-between the vertebrae. Sometimes the disc can also rupture, which makes it lose its shape. A bulging or ruptured (also called herniated) disc can press on the nerves in the spinal column, which can be very painful.
Your spine is made up of vertebrae [VER-tih-bruh], discs, spinal cord and nerves, ligaments, and muscles. Your vertebrae are stacked up on top of each other. The spinal column is divided into 4 regions with the vertebrae in the lumbar [LUM-bar] spine (the lower back area) including 5 vertebrae, which are numbered from L1 to L5. Each of these vertebrae are separated by discs that help cushion the vertebrae from the other vertebrae or bones above and below it.
Back pain is common. Most pain is temporary, but it can reoccur. It’s often caused by a strained muscle or sprained ligament — perhaps from an activity you’re not used to, such as yard work, moving furniture, or sitting for a long time.
Less often, pain happens when part of your spine is injured or from a condition you were born with or may have developed with age. The pain may accompany other symptoms such as stiffness, numbness, or weakness in your arms and legs. Spine problems can even affect your bowels and bladder.
Although lumbar disc disease can be very painful, pain is not the only symptom. The symptoms of lumbar disc disease vary depending on the disc that is affected and which nerve the disc may be pushing on. Other symptoms of lumbar disc disease may include:
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Anyone can have back pain. Still, some things increase your chance of having lumbar disc disease, such as:
To learn about you and your condition, your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms with you, examine you, and run some tests. Over the course of your care, this process may be repeated as part of follow-up care or as other doctors help care for you. Some tests your doctor may use to diagnose lumbar disc disease include:
Your care may include one or more of these treatments:
Other non-surgical procedures. Other procedures, such as neurotomy and radiofrequency ablation, use heat, cold, chemicals, or radiofrequency energy to destroy nerves near a problem joint. This relieves symptoms by preventing pain signals from traveling to the brain. Additional treatments for chronic pain include spinal pumps and stimulators that are implanted under the skin. A pump can put medication directly into the spinal fluid at just the right place in your spine. A spinal stimulator delivers a small electric pulse on the surface of the spinal cord to help mask pain.
Additional treatments for chronic pain include spinal pumps and stimulators that are implanted under the skin. A pump can put medication directly into the spinal fluid at just the right place in your spine. A spinal stimulator delivers a small electric pulse on the surface of the spinal cord to help mask pain.
Although not all cases of degenerative disc disorder can be prevented, there are some things that can be done to help prevent the condition. Some of these include:
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