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Symptoms of a Ruptured Lumbar Disc

By Lori Newell ; Updated August 14, 2017

In between the vertebra or bones in your spine are disks. These disks are made of a tough outer layer and have a jelly-like nucleus. A disk can herniate, which means the disk structure remains intact but bulges abnormally out of place. It can also rupture, which means that the outer layer has torn and the jelly-like center has leaked into the spinal column. This can place pressure on nerves, muscle and surrounding tissues. If your doctor suspects a ruptured disk in your lumbar or low back, these will be the specific symptoms he will look for.


The American Association of Neurological Surgeons states that the pain from a ruptured disk can be severe. It can occur just in the low back, or the pain can radiate into the buttocks, down the legs and into the feet, causing sciatica. The pain may be sharp or burning and become worse with activities such as sitting, standing, walking, twisting and bending. The pain may occur on just one side of the body, depending on which direction the disk herniated in.


Pressure on surrounding nerves can interrupt the signals that must get to the leg muscles. According to the Mayfield Clinic, this can cause sensations such as numbness, pins and needles and tingling sensations in the legs and feet. In addition, you may also experience muscle weakness or muscle cramps in one or both legs. If severe enough, this may inhibit your ability to walk and move around.

Loss of Bladder and Bowel Control

Since the nerves that help to control your bladder and bowel movements travel through the lumbar spine, these functions can be disrupted if a ruptured disk compresses them. The Mayo Clinic claims that you may develop incontinence and lose complete control over your ability to urinate and pass stools.

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