L5 S1 Disc Protrusion—Causes and Treatment of Back Pain Caused by a Slipped/Herniated Disc
L5 S1 Disc Protrusion and Pain
Do you have pain in your lower back? If you are older or engage in strenuous activity, it could be caused by a protruding disc, also known as a herniated, slipped, or bulging disc. The L5 S1 disc in particular is the most fragile and susceptible to protrusion since it often carries more weight than the other lumbar discs. ((L5 is medical shorthand for the fifth vertebrae in the lumbar, or the lower part of the spine, and S1 denotes the first vertebrae in the sacrum. The L5 S1 disc is sandwiched between these two vertebrae). A protrusion is the most common cause of lower back pain.
It is very important to take care of an L5 S1 disc protrusion as soon as you find out about it. Not only will the pain become worse and worse without treatment, but a disc protrusion is often just the preliminary phase of a more severe disc disease.
Disc Protrusion Definition—What Is a Disc Protrusion?
Your back consists of a column of individual bones, or vertebrae, separated by small cushions known as discs. These discs serve as shock-absorbing pads and are located between each vertebra.
When a disc is strained beyond its limit, the outer casing may bulge or rupture. The jelly-like inner substance can squeeze out to the side and touch or put pressure on one of the spinal nerves. This is commonly called a disc protrusion, also known as a herniated, slipped, or ruptured disc.
Symptoms of L5 S1 Disc Protrusion
The pressure on the lumbar spine nerves mentioned above causes pain that can be felt all the way down to the back of the leg. Most back pain does not need medical attention, but if you have back pain that includes weakness down the leg or changes in your bowel or bladder function, go see your doctor.
Symptoms of a disc protrusion include:
- Pain caused by movement
- Numbness or tingling
- Weakness down the leg
- Changes in bowel or bladder function
- Changes in reflexes
Disc Protrusion Video
L5 S1 Disc Protrusion Treatment
Depending on the pain level of your L5 S1, a number of treatment options can give you some (at least temporary) relief:
- Medication—Pain medication or muscle relaxants can relieve the pain for the moment. But be aware that such medicine has many side effects. It is imperative to first speak to your physician; you could overdose on or become addicted to pain medication, and over long time periods, it can lose effectiveness.
- Physiotherapy—Physiotherapists can help you stretch and strengthen muscles in your back. This can stabilize your back and lessen the pressure (and thus, the pain).
- Stand Up and Move—Sitting for long periods of time puts pressure on the L5 S1 disc. If you work in an office, make sure you frequently stand up to walk around. When at home, do some appropriate (i.e. non-strenuous) physical exercises.
- Massages—Massage therapy should only be used in addition to other methods. Massages can relax muscles, releasing some of the acute pain, but they do not bring lasting results.
- Acupuncture—This is a scientifically accepted, very old alternative treatment method using thin needles to stimulate energy points in the body. Acupuncture is a very good option to release the pain temporarily.
- Cortisone Injections—Also known as epidural steroid injections, cortisone shots contain a local anaesthetic and steroids. The local anaesthetic lasts for about 12 hours, while the steroid helps decrease the nerve irritation and usually starts working a day or two after the injection. This method is often ineffective in relieving pain, and should only be taken at the recommendation of your doctor.
- Spinal Decompression—This method uses technology to enlarge the space between the discs by slowly separating the back bones. You go to the doctor's office for between 20 and 30 sessions, during which you are fitted with one harness around your pelvis and another around your trunk. You then lie on a computer-controlled table, and the machine helps take the pressure off of the disc, pulling it back in place and thus reducing the protrusion.
- Surgery—This option should only be considered when all other treatment options have failed. Disc protrusion surgery is a very serious matter and carries certain risks. If you have exhausted other treatments, consult several doctors and read all you can about the procedure. Be well informed and confident that you are doing the right thing.
The First Step
No matter what, if you feel pain in your back accompanied by tingling and weakness in your leg or changes in your bowel and bladder functions, call a doctor. All of the steps described here should only be taken in conjunction with medical advice.