Dr. Kamal Thapar, MD., PhD., FRCSC., FAANS
1200 Oakleaf Way, Suite A, Altoona, WI 54720

Lumbar Disc Herniation

Each vertebra in our spine is separated by a soft, cushion type material called an intervertebral disc. These discs are essential for absorbing the impact which comes from any type of movement, especially jolting type activities such as running and jumping. A disc herniation occurs when part of the intervertebral disc material becomes displaced, leaking out into the spinal canal. With the cushion no longer in place or only partially in place, the vertebrae are no longer properly separated. This can lead to compression of the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves.


– Disc degeneration

– Trauma to the spine

– Heavy lifting or other type of strenuous activity


– Leg pain

– Back pain

– Numbness or tingling in the extremities

– Weakness

– Bladder and/or bowel dysfunction


In order to confirm the diagnosis of a disc herniation, an MRI of the lumbar spine is required. The MRI will be able to localize the soft tissue material from the intervertebral disc protruding out into the spinal canal and if any of the exiting spinal nerves are being compressed as a result.


A disc herniation can resolve on its own without surgical intervention. They are often treated initially with conservative management including anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and/or spinal injections. However, if the pain persists after three months and the disc herniation is still evident on imaging studies, surgical intervention is warranted. A microdiscectomy is often performed to treat a disc herniation. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that consists of removing the portion of the intervertebral disc that has protruded out into the spinal canal. It can include removing a very small portion of the bone over the nerve root. The purpose is to permanently relieve the pressure on the nerve and permit it to heal fully.