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Lumbar Disc Injury

A Lumbar Disc Injury is an injury that is done to the intevertebral disc in the lower back. There are two main types of Lumbar Disc Injuries - Bulging Disc, and Ruptured or Herniated Disc. 

What is Lumbar Disc Injury?

Between each vertebra in our spine is a structure called a disc. This disc is like a jelly-filled donut with a liquid-type material in the middle called the nucleus pulposus. When injured, the outer rim (annulus fibrosis) of the disc can weaken, and the nucleus can press outwards on the weakened disc wall, causing your disc to bulge outwards. If the outer rim tears, this can allow the liquid-type nucleus material to escape and results in low back pain. 

A bulging disc commonly describes a slipped disc or a protruding disc. However, when the disc bulge is significant enough for the disc nucleus to come out of the annulus, it is known as a herniated disc. 

Lumbar Disc Injury

Signs and Symptoms of Lumbar Disc Injury

Symptoms of Lumbar Disc Injury include:

  • Intermittent or continuous back pain.
  • Spasm of the back muscles
  • Sciatica
  • Muscle weakness in the legs
  • Numbness in the leg or foot
  • Decreased reflexes at the knee or ankle
  • Changes in bladder or bowel function

Causes of Lumbar Disc Injury

The causes of Lumbar Disc Injury can be categorized into three groups:

  1. Accumulated Microtrauma - repeated microtrauma over an extended period of time can lead to disc injury. The most common of this is poor posture. Poor posture stresses the spine; slouching or forward bending the spine can lead to overstretching and weakness of the spinal discs’ posterior fibrocartilage (or annulus). This results in inadequate disc integrity (Degenerative Disc Disease) and displacement of the disc nucleus fluid posteriorly. This displacement places your spinal joints and nerves under pain-causing pressure. 
  2. Sudden Unexpected Load - this can occur during traumatic situations, such as car accidents. This excessive load may occur due to the nature of the sudden forces exerted through your body at the time of impact, and your body attempts to repel those forces. A Sudden Unexpected Load can be also due to poor lifting technique.
  3. Genetic Factors - Spinal disc injury does have a genetic predisposition. The deficiencies discovered include a lesser tissue density and increased elastin component of the fibrocartilaginous fibres. These make up the annulus of the intervertebral disc. Other factors that may play a role could be environmental factors such as excess abdominal fat, poor core stability, reduced limb strength, and the nature of occupation (e.g., heavy physical load versus light or no physical pressure).

Statistics and Epidemiology related to Lumbar Disc Injury

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