How does a physician diagnose a herniated disc in the back?

Diagnosing a herniated disc is the first step to finding a treatment for pain relief. Maybe you have researched the possible reasons for your chronic back pain and stiffness, and you’ve determined that you probably have a herniated disc somewhere in your middle or lower back (lumbar spine). While you may be correct, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to receive an official diagnosis of the cause of your symptoms.

If you have a herniated disc, your physician will diagnose you through a series of exams. These exams generally start with some questions to help your physician understand what you’re experiencing and if anything in your current lifestyle or medical history is contributing to these symptoms. Then, a physical exam and imaging tests may be performed to get a clear view of what is happening in your spine. Understanding what to expect during your appointment can help ease your mind and move your focus to find effective pain relief.

Herniated disc question-and-answer session

Primarily, your physician may ask a series of questions to help him or her have a better understanding of your symptoms. Your answers could provide the information your physician needs to definitively diagnose you with a herniated disc in your back. These questions may include:

  • Can you describe your symptoms?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how severe is your pain?
  • Where are you experiencing your symptoms?
  • Did a car accident, athletic injury or other trauma lead to these symptoms?
  • Have any members of your family been diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition?
  • Do you use tobacco products or consume alcohol heavily?
  • Do you live a sedentary lifestyle?
  • Do you or have you ever played high-impact sports, like football or hockey?
  • Do you have a job that requires lifting heavy weights or frequent bending and twisting?

Imaging tests

Based on the information that you provide during the question-and-answer session, your doctor may order a diagnostic test such as an MRI or CT scan. These tests will provide your physician with a look inside your body to determine if a herniated disc or other degenerative spine condition is the cause of your pain as well as how far your condition has progressed.

If you’re diagnosed with a herniated disc

If your doctor diagnoses you with a herniated disc in your back, you may be recommended to begin a series of conservative treatments, such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Pain medication
  • Weight management
  • Yoga or Pilates
  • Stretching exercises

These treatments are often effective at relieving herniated disc pain after several weeks or months of continued use. However, if the pain does not decrease or it worsens, you may be a potential candidate for the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute.

How Laser Spine Institute can help

At Laser Spine Institute, our patients can experience peace of mind knowing that our procedures offer a shorter recovery time, lower risk of complication and a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be recommended to undergo a minimally invasive spine surgery.

Our team will discuss whether our procedures would be effective for your herniated disc after reviewing your medical imaging. While many of our patients are recommended for a decompression surgery, some patients require a stabilization surgery. Both procedures are often clinically appropriate over open neck or back surgery.^

At Laser Spine, we have helped more than 75,000 patients on their road to recovery. To see if our minimally invasive spine surgery can provide you with lasting relief from your herniated disc, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can review your MRI report or CT scan for free* and help you make a confident decision about your spine care treatment.

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