JOHN T. ALESI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JOHN T. ALESI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Slipped discs in the lumbar spine. Labelled sagittal artwork (right) and corresponding MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans through the lumbar (lower back) spine showing slipped (herniated) discs. A normal sagittal lumbar spine is at left. These disc defects are a 5-millimetre posterior disc protrusion (L3-L4 joint) and a 3-millimetre disc bulge (L5-S1 joint). The disc defects are pressing on the cauda equina (nerves below the lower end of the spinal cord). The discs of fibrocartilage between each vertebra form joints that allow the spine to bend and flex. Spinal disc herniation can cause pain and in severe cases may require surgery.
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