How to recognize the signs of a herniated nucleus pulposus

If you have neck or back pain, a herniated nucleus pulposus (herniated disc) was probably not your first thought. Spinal discomfort is very common, often resulting from nothing more than a bout of heavy lifting, a habit of hunching over an electronic screen or a tendency to become absentminded during daily activities. Usually, if you take a brief rest, apply an ice pack or heating pad and use over-the-counter medications as needed, you’ll be good to go within just a few days.

However, if your pain lasts longer, it could be a result of a herniated nucleus pulposus. But, there’s no way to know for sure unless you seek medical attention. To help you determine whether you should try to tough it out for a bit longer or schedule an appointment with a physician, here are some distinct symptoms to look for.

Common herniated disc symptoms

When you think about herniated nucleus pulposus symptoms, the first to come to mind are probably neck and back pain. While these symptoms are common, they are often accompanied by discomfort that originates in the spine and radiates through the shoulders, arms and hands or the buttocks, legs and feet. Here’s why:

When a spinal disc herniates, the nerves in its hard outer layer can become inflamed, causing localized pain in the neck or back (depending on the location of the damaged disc). Moreover, if some of the disc’s gel-like inner material leaks out and pressures a spinal nerve, the irritated nerve can send pain signals that travel along the nerve’s pathway. In addition to localized and radiating pain, some sensations that can indicate the presence of a herniated nucleus pulposus include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning sensations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Overactive reflexes

The importance of a proper diagnosis

Because the symptoms of a herniated nucleus pulposus can be very similar to those of many other conditions, a physician will likely perform a physical examination and order some imaging tests before making an official diagnosis.

Usually, treatment for a herniated nucleus pulposus begins conservatively, with surgery considered only as a last resort for severe and persistent pain. If you’ve reached this point but have concerns about the risks of traditional open spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our caring team can help you determine if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery by giving you an MRI review* at no cost.

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