The intervertebral disc is the cushion-like substance that separates each vertebra and acts as a shock absorber in the spine. Each disc contains a soft, jelly-like substance within the center known as the nucleus pulposus. Due to either degeneration (general wear and tear) or a traumatic injury, the outer portion of the disc can become torn, causing the nucleus to bulge or protrude out. Once the herniation compresses or irritates a surrounding nerve, the person may experience dull back pain, shooting leg pain or “sciatica”, as well as numbness or tingling sensations.
In some instances back surgery or pain medication may be absolutely necessary in treating lumbar disc herniations, however majority of cases can be managed conservatively and have the ability to heal on its own. Though painkillers are the most commonly given treatment for low back pain, they do not eliminate the problem and simply mask the pain and symptoms of a disc herniation. The “success” of back surgery is also controversial because not only is it an expensive procedure, but it may cause complications resulting in worsening pain or nerve damage.