What are the symptoms of a torn disc?

You may wonder if your chronic neck or back pain is due to a serious spinal condition, like a torn disc. If you suspect this to be the case it can be beneficial to learn as much about the symptoms of a torn disc — also called a ruptured, herniated or slipped disc — so that you can be as informed as possible before going to the doctor for an official diagnosis. This knowledge may help you and your physician develop a treatment plan with the best chance of helping you return to your normal activities.


The symptoms of a torn disc can vary from patient to patient. In fact, many cases can remain symptom-free for a long time. However, the following symptoms are most commonly associated with this spinal condition:

  • Dull, sharp, burning, or shooting pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms

The location of these symptoms may also vary depending on the site of the affected disc. A torn disc in the cervical (upper) spine may cause discomfort in the neck, shoulders or arms. A disc tear in the thoracic (middle) spine may cause symptoms in the ribs, torso, mid back or inner arms. Patients with a torn disc in the lumbar region (lower back) — the most common location for this condition — may experience discomfort in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs or feet. If these symptoms sound familiar, speak to a physician immediately for a proper diagnosis.

How to relieve symptoms

Most physicians will begin treatment for a torn disc with conservative therapies. This treatment plan may include over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, steroidal injections, hot/cold therapy or intermittent rest. Some patients also find relief from alternative treatments, such as yoga, Pilates and acupuncture. You should always discuss treatment options with their physicians, especially when medications or exercise programs are involved.

If conservative treatments like pain medication and physical therapy are providing little relief, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer a range of minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgeries that are safer and effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery, without the highly invasive nature and lengthy recoveries. Contact us today to learn more about these outpatient procedures and how they can potentially treat your torn disc.