How to tell if you have a herniated disc

In many cases neck or back pain is the result of a minor injury such as a strained muscle that improves over a short period of time. However, more persistent pain could be the result of a spine condition such as a herniated disc, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms. While a physician’s diagnosis is the only way to be sure, there are some distinct symptoms of a herniated disc you can look for. If you are experiencing these issues, you can bring this information to your doctor to pinpoint the source.

Common herniated disc symptoms

While the first herniated disc symptom that may come to mind is local neck or back pain, it is actually very common to experience radiating pain out to the arms or down to the hips, buttocks and legs as well.

When a spinal disc ruptures, it can cause the nerves on the hard outer layer to become inflamed, causing local pain in the area of the disc. However, if the expelled inner disc material compresses on the spinal cord or an exiting nerve root, it can cause radiating symptoms out to other parts of the body. These are some of the sensations that can indicate a herniated disc:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tingling sensations

If you have a herniated disc in your neck, you may notice symptoms in your shoulders or arms, while a herniated disc in your lower back could lead to symptoms that radiate to your buttocks, thighs and down to your feet. A common cause of sciatica, painful symptoms associated with a pinched sciatic nerve, is a bulging or ruptured disc.

The importance of a diagnosis and treatment plan

While the above symptoms can point to a herniated disc, they can also indicate many other conditions. For this reason, your physician will conduct physical examinations and possibly request diagnostic imaging, like an MRI, to make an official diagnosis.

If you do find yourself diagnosed with a herniated disc, your doctor will usually recommend a round of nonsurgical conservative treatments. These can include rest, hot and cold compression, over-the-counter medication and lifestyle changes. More intensive treatments like physical therapy or epidural injections could also be prescribed as necessary.

If weeks or months of conservative methods don’t offer lasting relief, your doctor can then start to explore surgical options with you. If you have looked into traditional open back surgery and are uneasy about some of the risks and the long recovery that comes with it, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our patient-centered approach includes minimally invasive spine surgery in an outpatient setting that offers many advantages. If your doctor has recommended a fusion surgery for advanced disc damage, our minimally invasive stabilization procedures are a safer and effective alternative to a traditional open spine fusion.^

Our team will be happy to provide you with a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

Browse Related Resources