Each year in the United States, more than 6.6 million people experience the symptoms of a herniated disc in their lower back or neck.
If you suspect that you may be among the new crop of people who’ve developed a herniated disc, the team here at Commonwealth Pain and Spine pulled together a list of the five most common signs of the problem so that you can compare your symptoms.
Before we get into the five common signs of a herniated disc, we should point out that this type of nerve compression most commonly develops in two different areas of your spine — your cervical spine (neck) and your lumbar spine (lower back). These are the most active areas in your spine, leaving them more vulnerable to degenerative disc disease and subsequent herniation. As a disc breaks down, it can bulge or leak its contents outside its intervertebral space and irritate a surrounding nerve root.
As a result, symptoms of lumbar disc herniation are slightly different than those of cervical disc herniation, and we cover that here.
Pain is the first symptom that gets you to sit up and take notice. The pain that comes from a herniated disc can stay local in your neck or lower back or radiate down the affected nerve. When this happens, you can experience pain on one side of your buttocks and down the back of one leg if the nerve compression is in your lower back. This condition is called sciatica.
The same thing can happen when a disc herniates in your neck, except the pain extends into your shoulder, arm, and hand and is usually only felt on one side of your body.
When you have a herniated disc, certain movements can irritate the nerve, making the pain flare. For example, turning your neck from side to side can be quite painful if the affected disc is in your cervical spine. If it's in your back, many patients report that getting up from a sitting or lying position makes the pain flare.
The nerve compression that occurs when a disc herniates can also lead to numbness and tingling that radiate into your arm or leg. These symptoms can extend into your foot or hand, depending upon the extent of the nerve compression.
You may also experience weakness in your foot if the herniated disc is in your lower back. This weakness can also occur in your hand with a cervical herniated disc, decreasing your grip strength.
Many people with herniated discs develop achy muscles near the herniation due to muscle tension, which is your body’s way of protecting itself.
If these symptoms sound familiar, come see us for diagnosis and treatment. To get started, you can make an appointment at a location near you. We have offices in St. Matthews, Elizabethtown, Lexington, Crestview Hills, Owensboro, and London, Kentucky. We also serve patients in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio.