Lumbar Disc Prolapse

A lumbar disc prolapse can also be called a disc bulge, disc herniation or even a ‘slipped’ disc. It is where a portion of the central core or nucleus of the disc is pushed, under pressure, out of position. This can commonly lead to it touching against or squashing a  nerve root in the lumbar spine and cause symptoms. These are commonly numbness or tingling, pain or weakness. These symptoms will occur in a defined area which is related to the nerve root in question.

The lumbar nerve roots go on to form parts of the sciatic & femoral nerves in your legs : Thus you may feel pain or tingling in the area of the sciatic nerve (hence the term ‘sciatica’) or the femoral nerve which is more down the front of the thigh.

Weakness is usually within a specific group of muscles supplied by that nerve root. True weakness is quite serious as it is a sign that the nerve root is being very squashed and may end up permanently damaged. You should seek the advice of your doctor as soon as possible in this case or arrange an appointment with a spinal Consultant such as Mr Cass. Sometimes though, weakness can be because of other reasons such as pain. Mr Cass will usually help to tell the difference with a relevant examination.

If a lumbar disc prolapse is suspected, an MRI scan is usually requested to confirm the diagnosis.

The reason a lumbar disc may prolapse is often not clear. It can occur after fairly minor events (you don’t have to be laying your patio to ‘slip’ a disc!).  It can occur in an inflamed or weakened disc, and you may have a period of back ache before developing leg pain. Contrary to what many think, disc prolapse does not always give you back pain.

Certain lifestyle activities do have an association with problems in your discs. The worst of these is smoking. The chemicals produced by even light smoking stop nutrients & oxygen entering your discs and can cause them to degenerate and prolapse. If you have disc problems you really should try and stop smoking.

Treatments for lumbar disc prolapse include careful watching; a physical rehabilitation program; medication; putting anti-inflammatory steroid into the spine and surgery. Decision of what treatment is best for you will come about from a discussion with Mr Cass about your level of symptoms in conjunction with the findings of your examination, investigations and  scans.

If you think you may have a disc prolapse or have a confirmed diagnosis but are not improving, please contact us on 01273 828098 to arrange an appointment with Mr Cass.

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