Overview

Lumbar Disc Herniation

The lumbar spine consists of the five vertebrae in the lower part of the spine, each separated by a disc, also called a lumbar disc. The lumbar vertebrae are the biggest and strongest of the spinal bones. The discs in this part of the spine can be injured by certain movements, bad posture, being overweight and disc dehydration that occurs with age.

Risk of lumbar injury increases with each vertebrae down the spinal column because this part of the back has to support more weight and stress than the upper spinal bones. The lumbar disc is the most frequent site of injury in several sports including gymnastics, weightlifting, swimming and golf, although athletes in general have a reduced risk of disc herniation and back problems.

Our Approach to Lumbar Disc Herniation

UCSF is home to one of the country's largest centers dedicated to evaluating and treating spinal disorders, such as lumbar disc herniation. Patients have access to the most up-to-date diagnostic imaging techniques as well as innovative treatments that are not widely available. Our team includes world-renowned specialists in neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, neurology, pain management, physical therapy, psychiatry, radiology and rheumatology. These experts work together to personalize a plan for each patient.

Conservative treatment for lumbar disc herniation is usually successful over time. It combines rest, medications and other therapies for alleviating pain (ultrasound, massage and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), physical rehabilitation, and education on proper posture and stretching. About 10 percent of adult patients will need surgery. Our team's expertise in state-of-the-art surgical repair and rehabilitation results in less time under anesthesia, faster recovery and, ultimately, a better quality of life. We also offer artificial disc replacement surgery, a newer option that may benefit patients who don't respond to other treatments.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Best hospital in Northern California

  • usnews-orthopedics

    Best in Northern California for orthopedics

  • n7-2x

    Ranked No. 4 in the nation for orthopedics

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

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