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3 Things You Need to Know About a Herniated Disc

Published April 18, 2017

Pain associated with a herniated disc diagnosis, cervical herniated disc or lumbar herniated disc is predominately misconstrued by patients and doctors alike, which happens because medical professionals do not all agree on its pathology, partly because some patients living with a herniated disc may not experience any known indicators.

“Although it may seem contrary to common sense, the severity of pain from a herniated disc does not always correlate to the amount of physical damage to the disc. Additionally, less serious back problems may cause more pain than a herniated disc, said Dr. John P. Revord, a rehabilitation specialist with NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin.

“For example, a large herniated disc can be completely painless, while a muscle spasm from a simple back strain may cause excruciating pain. This means that the severity of pain is not a determining factor for identifying a herniated disc,” Revord explained.

A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disk, is a common condition that can not only be excruciating but can affect your quality of life and normal daily routine.

Minute, spongy discs support the vertebras in your spine. When the discs are strong, they keep the vertebrae in place and act as shock absorbers maintaining a flexible spine. When a disc is weakened, it can swell and break open causing the patient to have limited mobility and feel excessive amounts of pain in the problematic region.

A cervical herniated disc is detected when the center of the neck’s disc trickles out, eventually overcrowding the neighboring nerve’s foundation. Normally presented in 30-to-50-year-olds, a cervical herniated disc may derive from a previous neck injury or trauma. The symptoms may begin suddenly. For those who deal with the physical herniated disc symptoms, you may experience all or just a few as it differs from patient to patient.

Herniated Disc Symptoms 

Feeling an intense amount of pain is the number one symptom. The pain is normally found up and down your legs including your buttock and feet — stemming from sciatica. The pain journeys alongside the pathway of the sciatic nerve causing pressure and radiating pain. Quick actions or even sneezing might induce these shooting pains. A lumbar herniated disc is the most common trigger of sciatica.

Numbness and/or a tingling sensation may occur where your affected nerve is not properly working. Your affected muscles will continue to deteriorate as time progresses. You may even become clumsier and begin to feel limited mobility when attempting to lift or hold every-day items.

Disk herniation is frequently the consequence of aging-related wear and tear called disk degeneration. As you get older, your spinal discs decrease its water content, making patients less flexible and unable to do normal things without hurting. The most common causes include behavior that puts stress on the spine such as manual labor, daily routines, and certain athletic activities. Carrying a surplus of weight places tension on the spine making obesity another factor. Genetics also plays a pivotal role, as certain family DNA can provide an increased risk of developing a herniated disc diagnosis.

How to Test for a Herniated Disc

To test for the presence of a lumbar disc herniation, your doctor may have you perform a straight leg raise test. The assessor will submissively flex your hip while supporting your knee that should be fully extended. A positive test is measured when you report a replica of pain at 40 degrees of hip flexion or less. Your doctor should then make note of the exact location your symptoms of pain began. This test should only be executed by a properly trained medical specialist.

Herniated Disc Treatments

With herniated disc treatment, most patients regain their mobility and can recover. Treatments include rest, pain and anti-inflammation medications, physical therapy, exercise, and chiropractic treatment along with epidural steroid injections. In more dire situations, spinal surgery may be required.

Living with a herniated disc can be tough, but recovery is possible. If you are experiencing numbness, weakness and/ or intense pain in your back or leg regions, you should consider consulting a medical professional to effectively take on possible disc herniation.

Last change: April 8, 2019