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What is lumbar disc disease?

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Lumbar disc disease is a condition in which the intervertebral discs between vertebrae deteriorate and bulge out or rupture, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. After rupture, fragments of disc material can press on nerve roots behind the disc space. Symptoms that result include pain, changes in sensation, weakness or numbness.

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Intervertebral discs deteriorate as a result of aging and a loss of fluid within them, states Johns Hopkins Medicine. Deterioration happens to the tough outer ring of a disc, allowing the soft, inner nucleus pulposus to bulge or rupture. Lumbar disc disease usually occurs at the lower part of the lumbar spine. Trauma can also trigger this disease.

Specific symptoms of lumbar disc disease depend on the location of the affected disc, reports Johns Hopkins Medicine. Pain that results may be intermittent or continuous. Sciatica, spasms, decreased knee or ankle reflexes and changes in bowel or bladder function can result from lumbar disc disease.

Treatment for lumbar disc disease depends on many factors, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine. Physicians take into account the overall health and medical history of the patient, age, the type and extent of disease and patient preference. The first line of treatment is conservative therapy. This includes physical therapy, education on body mechanics, bed rest, medication and back supports. Surgical removal of a disc can be performed if conservative therapy fails.

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