Lumbar Disc Herniation

Lumbar discs are gel-filled cushions that function as shock absorbers between the bony vertebrae. Wear-and-tear changes to the discs can lead to bulging or rupture (herniation). Disc bulges can be found in most adults and usually cause no pain. However, significant disc herniations can compress the lumbar nerves, causing leg pain, numbness and/or weakness (lumbar radiculopathy or lumbar spinal stenosis).


Lumbar disc herniations are usually caused by age-related degeneration of the discs. Genetic predisposition, obesity and smoking increase the risk of developing pain from lumbar disc herniations.

SymptomsX-ray of a spine with a red arrow pointing to a lumbar disc bulge.

  • Low back and/or buttock/thigh pain
  • Low back stiffness
  • Muscle spasms


Low back pain from lumbar disc herniation is usually treated by over-the-counter pain medications, weight loss, and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary to treat radiculopathy.

Schedule an Appointment

Please call 984-974-6800 to schedule an imaging appointment at the UNC Hospitals Imaging Center or 984-974-4200 to schedule a clinic appointment at the UNC Hospitals Spine Center.  Referrals are not necessary

Fax: 984-974-6740

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