How often do lumbar herniated discs and sciatica occur together?

herniated disc sciatica

Have you recently been diagnosed with a lumbar herniated disc? You’d be part of about 2% of people in the U.S. who develop a herniated disc each year. Many people with herniated discs go on to develop conditions like sciatica. In fact, herniated discs are one of the leading causes of sciatic nerve pain. 


These two conditions are closely related, and treating one often improves the other. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a lumbar herniated disc and sciatica, you can learn more about the relationship between the two and how physical therapists can help.


What’s the relationship between lumbar herniated discs and sciatica?


A herniated disc is a condition that involves the jelly-like inside of the spinal discs, called the nucleus. When one of these lower back, or lumbar, discs becomes herniated, the nucleus inside has slipped or leaked out of a small tear in a weak spot of the bone. Herniated discs most often happen in the lower back. When the nucleus slips out of a lumbar disc, it can sometimes press up against a nerve in the lower back. This is called nerve compression. Not everyone experiences noticeable symptoms with herniated discs, but those usually have some sort of nerve compression. 


Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back and down through both legs becomes compressed. It causes radiating pain, burning, numbness and various other symptoms. The pain usually starts in the lower back and travels down the length of one of the legs. Sciatic nerve pain is often the result of a bone spur or a herniated disc compressing the nerve in your lower back. 


In short, yes, it’s possible to have a lumbar herniated disc and sciatica simultaneously. In many cases, a patient’s sciatica can be caused by the occurrence of a lumbar herniation first. 


How can physical therapy help someone with a lumbar herniated disc and sciatica?


Physical therapy can be a good resource for patients with sciatica caused by a lumbar herniated disc. Here’s how physical therapy can help:


  • Relieve compression being placed on the nerve — A key benefit of PT treatment for herniated discs and sciatica is that it can relieve some of the pressure on a nerve. A physical therapist can identify the most likely source of the compression and determine what treatment can help remove some pressure from your sciatic nerve.


  • Improve range of motion in the lower back — Physical therapy can provide effective treatment if your lumbar disc herniation and sciatica have limited your mobility. A physical therapist can use gentle exercise to reduce muscle stiffness, improve tension and alleviate inflammation in the back. Treatment can gradually help those suffering from these two conditions improve their range of motion and flexibility in their back.


  • Improve ability to perform daily functions — Physical therapy can also be effective for someone struggling with lumbar disc herniation and sciatica because it can help them return to daily functioning. Reducing pain, improving range of motion and building strength can all help a person return to the activities they want to perform easily. Tasks like showering, bending over and brushing your teeth can become more comfortable with a physical therapist’s treatment. 


  • Build muscle strength in the abdomen — Another way physical therapy can help a person with a lumbar herniated disc and sciatica is by building muscle strength. Increased muscle strength can improve the body’s capacity to sustain heavy weights and higher amounts of strain on the body. It can also reduce muscle weakness. Muscle strength, particularly in the abdomen, can reduce the tension that may be pressing against the lower back’s sciatic nerve. Strength building can also improve a herniated disc by relieving some pressure on the vertebral column. Muscle building can be highly effective for treating both conditions. It can address your symptoms at their root.


Let Panther Physical Therapy treat your sciatic nerve pain and your lumbar disc herniation


Panther Physical Therapy can help you receive the physical therapy treatment you’ve been looking for. Our team consists of professional and compassionate physical therapists. We care about providing high-quality treatment to each patient. We’re also dedicated to continuing our education to provide the most innovative care. 


If you’re ready to take control of your nerve pain symptoms, our team is ready to help. We’re trained experts who can help you relieve pain, improve range of motion and build muscle strength. Don’t wait any longer to reach out to our team with any questions or concerns you may have.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.