What are the symptoms of a ruptured disc?

The symptoms of a ruptured disc can depend on specific factors such as the severity and location of this condition. For a better understanding of how and where symptoms occur, it can be helpful to learn about the underlying causes of a ruptured disc.

Spinal discs rest between almost all of the vertebrae in the spinal column, absorbing shock and allowing for movement. With age the discs begin to weaken and lose elasticity. The tough outer wall of the disc, called the annulus fibrosus, progressively loses its strength, making it vulnerable to bulging or cracking. A ruptured disc, also known as a herniated disc, can occur if the gelatinous inner material, or nucleus pulposus, leaks out of a cracked outer wall and into the spinal canal. While age is a major factor in disc degeneration and herniation, other causes and contributors can include injuries from sports or accidents, repetitive heavy lifting, genetics and obesity.

Ruptured disc symptoms by location

If the nucleus of a degenerated disc pushes out and compresses a spinal nerve, radiating symptoms may travel along the course of the nerve, including burning pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. The location of ruptured disc symptoms usually depends on the region of the spine where the ruptured disc and related nerve compression occurs. These regions include:

  • Cervical (upper) spine. A ruptured disc in the cervical region may cause pain or numbness in one or both shoulder blades, arms or hands. Tingling sensations, spasms or weakness may also be felt in those areas.
  • Thoracic (middle) spine. The thoracic region is generally a stable area of the spine, with added support from the surrounding rib cage. This stability makes ruptured discs rarer here. However, symptoms of pain, numbness and weakness can occur in the chest and abdomen if nerve compression does occur.
  • Lumbar (lower) spine. A lumbar ruptured disc may cause pain and tingling in the lower back and in one or both buttocks, hips, legs and feet. Cramping, spasms, muscle weakness, a “pins and needles” sensation and numbness may also occur in these areas.

Ruptured discs may not necessarily cause symptoms if the displaced disc material doesn’t compress upon a nerve, meaning that this condition can go undiagnosed for years.

Laser Spine Institute

Has your physician told you that a ruptured disc is causing your pain? If conservative treatments such as pain medication, rest, exercise and physical therapy have not brought relief after weeks or months, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open spine surgery and the hospitalization, risk of complication and long recovery time that can come with it.

To learn more, reach out to our dedicated team today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.