Signs of a Herniated Disc

Typically referred to as a “slipped” or “ruptured” disc, a herniated disc results when the softer inner material of a disc that cushions your spine pushes outward. It’s a fairly common source of back pain and one of the top reasons why a patient is referred to an orthopedic surgeon if initial treatments aren’t providing relief.

Signs You May Have a Herniated Disc

Discomfort from a herniated disc is experienced when the bulging disc material places pressure on nerve roots. Sharp, shooting pain extending from the lower back to one leg is the most common sign of a herniated disc, although pain that’s aggravated by movement can also be an indication of a problem with one or more discs somewhere along the spine. Symptoms associated with a herniated disc may include:

• Numbness or tingling
• Radiating pain in the legs or arms
• General muscle weakness
• Difficulty maintaining stability
• Burning sensation in the back, neck, or shoulders

Possible Causes of a Herniated Disc

The discs between each vertebra that are meant to ease pressure on your spine as you move need a certain amount of moisture to function properly. This moisture level decreases with age and sometimes causes the discs to weaken or shrink. Other factors contributing to disc herniation can include:

• Excessive body weight
• Improper lifting
• Sudden impacts
• Repetitive motions
• Smoking

How a Herniated Disc Is Treated

Treatment starts with clearly identifying the location of the herniated disc. An orthopedic surgeon will also take a look at your complete medical history, including any medications you may be taking, to rule out other factors that may be contributing to your discomfort. Image tests will determine the extent of the damage to the disc and whether or not there is instability along the spine that may need to be addressed. Treatment options may include:

• Anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxers
• Heat applications after spasms occur
• Slow and controlled physical therapy
• Removal of the damaged part of the disc
• Fusion surgery to restore spinal stability

Surgery is a last resort for the treatment of herniated disc. Oftentimes, the reason you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon is simply to have a fresh set of eyes look at your condition. You may receive a treatment recommendation you haven’t considered before; or diagnostic testing may reveal another source of your back or neck pain that was previously overlooked.