Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
Your spine is composed of individual bones called vertebrae.
Your vertebrae form a protective tunnel called the spinal canal, which surrounds the spinal cord as it travels down the length of your spine
On each side of the spinal cord spinal nerves exit the spinal canal through small, boney channels called neural foramina.
Your lumbar spine is the lower third of your spinal column. Between each vertebra, a flexible pad called an intervertebral disc acts as a shock absorber for your spine.
Lumbar disc pressure can increase by more than fifty percent when you change from a standing position to bending over,
or by more than eighty percent between a standing position and sitting with no back support.
The intervertebral disc's tough, outer ring is known as the annulus fibrosus. The soft, gel-like center is called the nucleus pulposus.
During a traumatic injury, your spine may lurch forward forcefully, causing your vertebrae to compress the front of one or more of your lumbar discs beyond normal limits.
As a result, the back of your disc protrudes backward, causing small tears and thinning of your annulus fibrosus.
Over time, your damaged annulus fibrosus may weaken and change shape, and your nucleus pulposus may dry out and lose flexibility.
As your intervertebral disc deteriorates, your nucleus pulposus may push your annulus outward, resulting in a disc bulge.
Depending on its location, the bulge may push on, or impinge one of your spinal nerves
your spinal cord or your cauda equina, which is a collection of spinal nerve roots at the end of your spinal cord.
Central disc bulges protrude backward into your spinal canal.
Lateral disc bulges extend into your neural foramen.
Severe lumbar disc injuries can tear your annulus fibrosus.
Pressure from your vertebrae may push your nucleus pulposus out of your torn annulus, causing a disc herniation.
A herniated lumbar disc can impinge upon your cauda equina or spinal nerves and cause symptoms such as pain, numbness or weakness in one or both of your legs.
Treatment for lumbar disc injuries may include: rest; anti-inflammatory medication; muscle relaxants; ice or heat applied to the injured area;
physical therapy; an epidural steroid injection, given directly into the area of nerve irritation; and, in more severe cases, surgery.