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A herniated disc occurs when a fragment of the spinal disc nucleus is pushed out into the spinal canal through a tear. It impinges on spinal nerves, producing godawful pain down the accompanying leg and foot.

The compression and inflammation causes the pain known as sciatica, and in severe cases the nerve's compression produces weakness in the leg or foot.

A herniated disc is usually preceded by low back pain. When the nucleus herniates and compresses the spinal nerve, the pain changes (increases) from "dull" low back pain to "sharp" or "piercing" sciatica.

A herniated disc is usually treated conservatively at first, without surgery. The low back area is given rest for several weeks in order to allow the nerve inflammation to subside. This can be helped along by anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen or Naprosyn, and/or an epidural steroid injection may be performed. Physical therapy may be beneficial, including use of traction, ultrasound, and electrical muscle stimulation, to relax spasming muscles. If conservative treatment doesn't work, surgery is necessary.

If the herniation is large, disc excision is necessary. A microlaminotomy requires several days in the hospital post-surgery for wound healing. The sciatic pain is gone immediately after the surgery, though the area where the operation is performed will ache for a few weeks.

Mine is L4-L5. It hurts.

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