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Back Pain From a Herniated Disc

Back pain affects seven out of ten people at some point in their lives. Back pain that also creates numbness, weakness or tingling in the legs is commonly caused by herniated or ruptured lumbar discs, located in the spinal column in the lower back.

The spine is composed of several bones, called vertebrae, that are cushioned by small discs. These discs are made up of a tough outer layer that surrounds a jelly-like substance. They act as shock absorbers for the spine.

A disc is herniated when a fragment of the jelly-like substance, called the nucleus, is pushed out of the tough outer layer (called the annulus) through a tear or rupture into the spinal column. When this occurs, the displaced disc fragment presses on the spinal nerves, causing pain that can be severe.

The location of the herniated disc determines where pain occurs. Ruptured discs in the lumbar area of the spine, located at the base of the spine in the lower back, cause back and leg pain.

In many cases, nonsurgical measures, including back exercises, reduced activity, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, injections, weight loss and physical therapy, may provide relief. When these measures do not control pain, your physician may recommend evaluation by a neurosurgeon.

At Baptist’s Spine Center, we have built an experienced team to make your spine surgery as smooth as possible with high quality outcomes.

Diagnostic Tests

To help determine if you are a candidate for back surgery, a surgeon will perform a physical examination and review your medical history. Diagnostic tests that may be used include:

  • X-ray
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):
  • Myleography: This test includes an X-ray of the spinal canal following injection of a contrast material into the spinal column. It can show pressure on the spinal cord or nerves due to herniated discs, bone spurs or tumors.

Surgery to Relieve Pain

In general, back surgeries to relieve pain will involve one or more of the following procedures:


removal of a herniated disc


removal of most of the bony arch, or lamina of a vertebra.

Spinal Fusion

grafting bone onto the spine to create a solid union between two or more vertebrae. Screws and rods may be used to provide additional spinal support.

In certain cases, surgeons may use minimally invasive techniques for these procedures. One of these procedures is called a minimally invasive microlumbar discectomy.

Recovery and Return to Normal Activities

Recovery will depend on the type of surgical procedure you have performed. Your doctor will usually prescribe pain medication and help determine when you can resume normal activities, including work, driving and exercising. It is common to feel some discomfort as you slowly increase activity, but an increase in pain may be a warning that you are doing too much too soon.

Get Help For Back Pain at Baptist

If you would like to be treated at Baptist for back pain, the first step is being seen by one of our neurosurgeons. Your physician can make arrangements for this appointment. All neurosurgeons on staff at Baptist are board certified, and many have sub-specialty training within their field.

See Neurosurgeons at Baptist.

Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons


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