Discs serve as shock absorbers for the spine and as “spacers” that allow spinal nerves enough room to exit without being pinched. A ruptured lumbar disc means that the outer walls of a disc in the lumbar spine (lower back) are bulging or have torn.

Also referred to as a herniated disc or slipped disc, a ruptured lumbar disc can pinch the nerves and sometimes the spinal cord. It can also affect the sciatic nerve, creating a condition called sciatica.

Many people have ruptured lumbar discs and never experience any symptoms at all; however, sometimes ruptured discs do cause pain. The pain can be sudden and cause sharp shooting pain into the buttocks, arms or legs. Some individuals experience pain or numbness on the back of the calf or sole of the foot, or weakness in one leg. The pain, numbness or weakness usually goes away or improves dramatically within weeks or months without medical treatment.

If a ruptured lumbar disc is suspected, the spine specialists at Lancaster Orthopedic Group will diagnose the condition and explore all of your treatment options, from medications to steroid injections to options for surgical intervention.

In mild cases, conservative treatments include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory and pain medication, back bracing, and physical therapy to help prevent reoccurrence. If the symptoms do not respond to conservative care, surgical treatment of the ruptured lumbar disc, such as discectomy, may be recommended.