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A common cause of low back and leg pain is a ruptured or herniated disc. Disc herniation occurs when the annulus fibrous breaks open or cracks, allowing the nucleus pulposus to escape. This is called a Herniated Nucleus Pulposus (HNP) or herniated disc.Symptoms may include dull or sharp pain, muscle spasm or cramping, sciatica, and leg weakness or loss of leg function. Sneezing, coughing, or bending usually intensifies the pain. Rarely bowel or bladder control is lost, and if this occurs, seek medical attention at once. Sciatica is a symptom frequently associated with a lumbar herniated disc. Pressure on one or several nerves that contribute to the sciatic nerve can cause pain, burning, tingling, and numbness that extends from the buttock into the leg and sometimes into the foot. Usually one side (left or right) is affected.
Many factors increase the risk for disc herniation: (1) Lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, lack of regular exercise, and inadequate nutrition substantially contribute to poor disc health. (2) As the body ages, natural biochemical changes cause discs to gradually dry out affecting disc strength and resiliency. (3) Poor posture combined with the habitual use of incorrect body mechanics stresses the lumbar spine and affects its normal ability to carry the bulk of the body’s weight. Combine these factors with the affects from daily wear and tear, injury, incorrect lifting, or twisting and it is easy to understand why a disc may herniate. For example, lifting something incorrectly can cause disc pressure to rise to several hundred pounds per square inch!
1) Disc Degeneration: chemical
changes associated with aging causes
discs to weaken, but without a
2) Prolapse: the form or position of
the disc changes with some slight
impingement into the spinal canal.
Also called a bulge or protrusion.
3) Extrusion: the gel-like nucleus
pulposus breaks through the tire-like
wall (annulus fibrosus) but remains
within the disc.
4) Sequestration or Sequestered Disc:
the nucleus pulposus breaks through
the annulus fibrosus and lies outside
the disc in the spinal canal (HNP).
To learn more about this condition, download the printable PDF