The human spinal cord runs down the back of a person’s neck for about 18 inches from the base of the brain. It’s protected by a number of cervical and thoracic vertebrae. Below the thoracic vertebrae are five lumbar vertebrae. They play an important role in carrying the weight of a person’s upper body. They also protect the bottom of the spinal cord and the nerves that are inside of the vertebral canal.
Think of a lumbar disc as a jelly donut. In between each lumbar vertebra is a circular cartilaginous disc. Inside of those discs is a substance resembling jelly that helps to cushion the lumbar vertebrae and help it to absorb strain, pressure and shock.Herniated Lumbar Disc
When a disc anywhere on the spine ruptures, it’s called a herniation. Cartilaginous bands surrounding the disc break, and the jelly-like substance inside of the disc leaks out. That can put pressure on the spinal cord, a spinal nerve or both. By far, the lumbar spine is the most common location for a person to suffer a herniated disc. Some Causes of Lumbar Disc Herniations
Nobody is getting any younger, one of the causes of lumbar disc herniations can be the aging process and disc degeneration. Disc herniation can also be caused by heavy work, lifting and twisting, trauma from a motor vehicle accident, or a fall.
Lumbar Disc Herniation Symptoms
Many times, lumbar disc herniation symptoms are only experienced on one side of the body. They can include one or more of the following:
- Dull or stabbing pain on one side of the lower back and buttocks.
- Sharp stabbing pain in the lower back, on one side of the buttocks, down the calf on that side and into the arch of that foot.
- A tingling sensation in a foot.
- Burning pain in a thigh.
- Leg weakness on the affected side.
Diagnosing Disc Pathology
Based on your medical history coupled with your complaints of pain and discomfort, your doctor will begin diagnosing your condition with a physical exam. That exam will probably consist of the straight leg raising test, checking your gait, reflexes, muscle strength and ability to sense light touches. Even on the basis of a physical exam, a preliminary diagnosis of disc pathology can be made.
A herniated lumbar disc can almost always be diagnosed within a high degree of medical certainty through radiological studies. Some are more definitive than others. Here are some of the tests:
- X-rays won’t show a herniated disc, but they can point toward that problem if a loss of space between two vertebrae is shown.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is widely used in diagnosing herniated discs. The location of a herniation and the spinal nerve that is affected by it can be shown with remarkable definition.
- A CT scan and myelogram might be used if more than one herniation is suspected. A contrast agent is injected into the patient’s spinal fluid, and x-rays are taken to determine what nerves are affected.
Two Surgical Approaches
Rest, medication and physical therapy are all conservative approaches to treating a herniated lumbar disc. If the pain and discomfort persist, it’s likely that the patient will be referred to either an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery. Here are two of the ways that a herniated lumbar disc is approached in a surgical setting.
- Discectomy. This is the most common type of surgery for a lumbar disc herniation. That part of the disc that puts pressure on a spinal nerve is removed. Discectomy has even evolved into microdiscectomy.
- Fusion. In a lumbar fusion, the disc is removed in its entirety, and two or more vertebrae are fused together by bone grafts. This approach also often involves screws, rods or brackets for purposes of providing permanent extra stability.
In the event that a person has successful surgery, bending, twisting and lifting are all restricted for about six weeks or longer. With a fusion, it can take a minimum of three to four months after the procedure for the bones to heal. It might take some patients up to a year.
Contact a Louisville Personal Injury Lawyer
If you suffered one or more herniated discs as a result of the carelessness and negligence of someone else in or around Louisville, Lexington, Southern Indiana or anywhere in Kentucky, you might be entitled to substantial compensation. We recommend that you contact our offices to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation as soon as possible after an accident. We promise to listen to you carefully and answer your questions. After that, we’ll advise you of your legal options. Contact us right away after suffering any kind of a lumbar spine injury. The first consultation is covered under our No Fee Promise, you never pay a fee unless we win or settle your case. Speak to one of our attorneys today.