Diagnosing a herniated disc — common steps

Experiencing symptoms like back pain combined with tingling or numbness in the extremities often indicates a herniated disc in your back, but only a qualified medical professional can confirm diagnosis. While back pain can also be caused by something as simple as overexerting yourself during a workout or pulling a muscle playing a pickup game of basketball, if your pain lasts for more than a handful of days, you probably will want to visit your doctor.

If you are experiencing any anxiety at the prospect of seeing your doctor, learning more about what goes in to diagnosing a herniated disc can be helpful. The following information can help you become more engaged and attentive with the treatment process and give you the best chance of getting the treatment that you deserve for your neck or back pain.

How a herniated disc is diagnosed

Typically, when a patient with chronic back pain visits his or her physician, the examination will begin with a series of questions about medical history. You may be asked to describe the severity, location and extent of your symptoms in an attempt to determine what may have caused the onset of the pain. Once the medical review is complete, your doctor should conduct a physical examination to test range of motion and pinpoint the location of pain and other symptoms. You may be referred to a diagnostics center to have a medical imaging test performed. Recommended options include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • X-ray

Treatment for a herniated disc

Once diagnosis of a herniated disc has been confirmed, your doctor can work with you to design a comprehensive treatment plan that takes factors like your overall health, age or weight into account. Treatment almost always begins with a course of conservative treatments such as rest, hot and cold compression therapy, low-impact exercise, physical therapy and over-the-counter medication.

If symptoms do not improve, or worsen, despite fully exploring conservative treatments, you and your doctor may begin to discuss surgery. If you have been recommended for a traditional open back procedure, but have concerns about the risks and difficulties involved, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed on an outpatient basis with a less than 1-inch incision, leading to a shorter recovery time compared to traditional procedures.^

Learn more and get a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures by reaching out to our dedicated team today.

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