Lumbar Disc Herniation

Terms with the same meaning:

  • Herniated nucleus pulposus
  • Disc protrusion
  • Disc herniation
  • Disc rupture
  • Slipped disc

Disc herniation often results in shooting pain in the leg, called sciatica. It occurs when the tough, outer rim of the disc tears, allowing the soft, central part to squeeze out and contact the nerve that lies adjacent to the disc. Symptoms include pain in the buttock and pain that shoots down the leg and sometimes the foot. This can be associated with weakness, numbness or tingling of the leg or foot. The onset is usually sudden and typically follows a minor twisting movement followed pain, which can be severe.


In most people symptoms resolve over a few weeks with reduced activity, physiotherapy and medications. Spinal cortisone injections are also an option, though they are not always beneficial.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is used for unrelenting pain in the leg (sciatica) or severe weakness of the leg. The most common procedure is micro-discectomy via a small incision in the back. Most people having this type of surgery return home after a couple of nights in hospital.

Medical terminology:

  • Intervertebral disc (‘disc’) = fibro-cartilage cushion between vertebrae
  • Annulus = tough, outer rim of disc
  • Nucleus pulposus = soft, inner core of disc
  • Sciatica = nerve pain in the leg