5 Common Signs and Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

5 Common Signs and Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Your spine is a complex structure comprising various components, including vertebrae, nerves, and spongy intervertebral discs. The intervertebral discs provide cushioning for your spine and act as shock absorbers.

However, these discs are prone to injury and can cause a variety of symptoms that can severely affect your daily activities.

When dealing with painful back or neck symptoms, Dr. Nabil Ebraheim and the team at the University of Toledo provide you with a quick diagnosis and customized treatments. Dr. Ebraheim is an experienced orthopedic surgeon offering modern treatment options for herniated discs and other spinal conditions.

Understanding herniated discs

Your spine has intervertebral discs between each pair of vertebrae that give your spine height and absorb shocks when you run or walk. Each intervertebral disc comprises a flexible outer shell called the annulus and a jelly-like inner center known as the nucleus.

A herniated disc happens when the disc's soft center pushes on the annulus. The pressure places strain on your spinal cord and the surrounding nerves. In some cases, the nucleus can push the whole way through a tear in the annulus and spill into the spinal canal.

A herniated disc can occur anywhere in your spine but is most common in your lower back (lumbar spine). However, you can also have a herniated disc in your neck (cervical spine).

There are several risk factors for herniated discs, such as a sudden injury to your spine from an accident or a fall. Chronic wear-and-tear on your spine may also lead to disc herniation, especially if you're overweight and/or sedentary.

Most people experience severe pain with disc herniation and other symptoms related to nerve compression in the spine.

Five common symptoms

Since many different problems can affect your spine, it's important to understand the symptoms of a herniated disc. The following five signs are common in someone experiencing a herniated disc:

1. Leg or arm pain

Herniated discs often place pressure on nerves that exit your spine and travel to other areas of your body. When nerves are compressed in your neck or back, you may have arm or leg pain that feels like an electric shock traveling from the back down the extremity.

2. One-sided symptoms

When you have a herniated disc, your symptoms typically affect one side of your body. For instance, a lumbar herniated disc may produce symptoms that radiate down your buttocks into one leg and foot.

3. Numbness and tingling

Nerve compression from a herniated disc also causes numbness and tingling in the affected area. For example, a herniated disc in your neck may produce tingling sensations in your arm and fingers. In contrast, a lumbar herniated disc produces numbness and tingling down one of your legs.

4. Neck or back pain

If you have a herniated disc, you typically have pain in the affected area. You may have neck pain on the sides and back of your neck or between your shoulder blades with a cervical herniated disc. Back pain is common when you have a herniated lower back disc.

5. Weakness

Nerve compression also causes weakness in the muscles linked to those nerves. The weakness can make walking, holding onto things, or lifting objects difficult.

When to seek help for your pain

Any time you experience back pain, tingling, or numbness, you should seek treatment if the pain doesn't go away after a day. You should definitely make an appointment if your symptoms start after an injury.

You must also get evaluated immediately if you're experiencing loss of bowel or bladder control, severe weakness in your extremities, or loss of sensation in your groin or rectum. These are all signs of a severe condition that involves your spinal nerves.

For mild-to-moderate symptoms, restrict activities for a few days and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to ease your symptoms. If you still have pain after a few days, make an appointment with Dr. Ebraheim.

Treatments for herniated discs

Dr. Ebraheim offers several treatments for a herniated disc based on your symptoms. For mild-to-moderate disc herniations, he recommends conservative measures such as:

If your symptoms are severe and other nonsurgical treatments haven't successfully relieved your pain, Dr. Ebraheim discusses surgical options for pain relief. He considers your overall health and age before deciding if surgery is right for you.

In many cases, conservative measures are enough to ease your symptoms over several weeks. However, surgery may be the next step if pain significantly impacts your normal activities and other treatments haven't helped.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Ebraheim for back pain, call our office at 419-383-3761, or request an appointment online. You can also learn more about the conditions we treat on our YouTube channel.

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