Can a lumbar herniated disc cause bowel problems?

Answered by Robert Flynn

A lumbar herniated disc can indeed cause bowel problems. The lumbar region of the spine is located in the lower back and consists of the five vertebrae between the rib cage and the pelvis. When a disc in this region becomes herniated, it means that the soft, gel-like center of the disc has protruded out through a tear in the outer layer.

The herniation of a lumbar disc can lead to compression or irritation of the nerves that are responsible for controlling bowel function. These nerves originate from the lower part of the spinal cord and branch out to innervate the muscles and organs of the lower abdomen, including the colon or large intestine.

When the nerves in the lower back are affected by a herniated disc, it can disrupt the normal functioning of the colon. This can result in difficulty moving waste through the colon, leading to symptoms such as constipation or slowed bowel movements. In some cases, it may also cause a loss of control over bowel movements, leading to bowel incontinence.

The severity of the bowel problems can vary depending on the location and severity of the herniated disc. For example, a herniation that compresses the nerves responsible for regulating the muscles of the colon may cause more significant bowel issues compared to a herniation that only affects sensory nerves.

In addition to bowel problems, a lumbar herniated disc can also cause other symptoms such as lower back pain, leg pain or numbness, and muscle weakness in the legs. These symptoms may worsen with activities that involve bending, lifting, or twisting the spine.

It’s important to note that not all individuals with a lumbar herniated disc will experience bowel problems. The impact on bowel function can vary from person to person, and some individuals may have no bowel issues at all.

If you suspect that your lumbar herniated disc is causing bowel problems, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. They may recommend conservative treatments such as physical therapy, pain medication, or epidural steroid injections to manage the symptoms. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to alleviate the compression on the nerves and restore bowel function.

A lumbar herniated disc can potentially cause bowel problems by affecting the nerves responsible for regulating bowel function. However, the severity and presence of these issues can vary from person to person. Seeking medical advice is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.