The weakest portion of the disc is directly under the nerve root. If the herniated disc (also sometimes referred to as a slipped disc) in the lower back is pressing on a nerve root, pain and numbness in the buttock and leg may occur. This type of pinched nerve condition is referred to as sciatica. Sciatica is the most common set of symptoms associated with a herniated disc at lumbar levels or lowest portion of the back.
It is caused by compression of one or more of the sciatic nerves. The sciatic nerves are the largest nerves in the body and run from either side of the base of the spinal cord, past the buttocks and down through each leg. In addition to pain in the lower back, buttock and/or various parts of the leg and foot, other typical symptoms include numbness or tingling that radiates down the legs and into the feet along with muscle weakness and difficulty in moving or controlling the leg. Usually, the symptoms are felt on only one side of the body.
The specific symptoms you experience will depend upon the affected nerve that is being compressed in your lower back. Most commonly disc herniations occur in the lumbar spine at L4/L5 or L5/S1 levels causing compression of the L5 or S1 nerve, respectively.
- L5 nerve impingement can lead to weakness in the foot including the inability to extend the big toe and ankle weakness (foot drop). Numbness and pain can occur on the top of the foot, and the pain may radiate into the buttock.
- S1 nerve impingement may cause loss of the ankle reflex and/or inability to do toe rises. Numbness and pain can radiate down to the sole or outside of the foot.
Soft tissue tears in the disc may result in the release of inflammatory chemical mediators which may directly cause chronic severe pain, even in the absence of nerve root compression.
The pain from a herniated disc is usually worse when you are active and gets better with rest. Sitting, bending forward, driving, coughing, and sneezing may make your pain worse. The pain gets worse with these movements because they put more pressure on the nerves.
A herniated or ruptured disc in the lower back may also cause back pain, although back pain alone without leg pain, referred to as radiculopathy, may have many other causes. In rare cases, weakness or numbness in both legs, along with loss of bladder or bowel control, may occur. This is a sign of a potentially serious condition called cauda equina syndrome and requires immediate diagnosis, medical treatment, and surgery.
If you have Lumbar Disc herniation symptoms See our Physician Locator to find an outpatient office. Or call us toll free at 1-888-747-7470. See our video testimonials for real life successes and learn more about a minimally invasive treatment procedure that may be an option to traditional surgery.