Bulging or herniated discs are often a cause of pain in the low back and legs. The low back is normally the site of disc herniation, and it is comprised of 5 vertebrae, known as the lumbar vertebrae. Between each of these bony elements of the spine is a fibrous pad with a firm outer rim known as the annulus fibrosis, surrounding a central area that is filled with a substance that is gel-like and is called the nucleus pulposus.
The vertebrae surround the spinal cord, and nerves exit through small openings between the vertebral bodies. Degenerative changes occur as we age and the outer rim of the protective disc may rupture, allowing the inner gel to escape. Chemical changes cause the discs to weaken. The disc may protrude into the spinal canal or may impinge on the spinal nerve. The end stage of this process occurs when the central gel of the nucleus pulposus breaks through the disc.
The disc can impinge upon the exiting spinal nerves, and this is the cause of pain associated with a herniated disc or a pinched nerve. Since the nerves that leave the lower part of the spinal cord travel to the lower body to provide motor and sensory function, a herniated disc can result in pain or numbness in those regions, weakness of the lower extremities, and can also result in problems with urination or bowel control.
If you are suffering from back pain radiating to your buttocks or legs, weakness in your extremities, numbness or problems with bowel or bladder control, you should see a physician immediately. The sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances will be for successful conservative therapy. Your physician will also advise you on some of the risk factors for continued problems with your lumbar spine, including excess weight and poor posture.
If you are experiencing significant back pain, with or without neurologic symptoms, you should contact us today. We offer weekday and weekend appointments. You can find us at our conveniently located clinics in West Orange, Aberdeen, and Lyndhurst.