Identifying Herniated Disc Symptoms to Help Get a Diagnosis

Herniated disc symptomsIdentifying herniated disc symptoms can be difficult, as they can be quite similar to the symptoms associated with other spine conditions. Your primary care physician or a spine specialist are the only ones qualified to properly diagnose a herniated disc, but just because you’re experiencing lower back pain doesn’t mean he or she will automatically assume that you have a herniated disc. Physical exams and tests come first.

If you believe you have a herniated disc, detailing your symptoms for your physician – specifically the location, severity, and activities or movements that worsen or lessen them – can help your physician greatly in ascertaining whether or not a herniated disc is the cause of your discomfort.

When a Herniated Disc Causes Pain

A herniated disc is a condition that can develop at any level of the spine, but most commonly occurs in the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) regions of the spine. A disc is said to herniate when the normally tough, fibrous outer wall (annulus fibrosus) tears and releases the gel-like inner core (nucleus pulposus), which expands past the disc’s normal boundary within the spinal column. Herniated disc symptoms can affect the upper or lower body, depending on the location in which extruded inner disc material comes into contact with the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root.

Document Your Symptoms

Before you visit your physician, you’ll want to document whether you’re experiencing:

  • Localized neck pain; radiating pain that travels from the neck and down through the shoulder, arms, and hands; arm muscle weakness; tingling and numbness
  • Localized lower back pain; radiating pain that travels from the lower back and down through the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet; leg muscle weakness; tingling and numbness

You may also want to document whether you’re having difficulty picking up and holding objects or experiencing changes in gait.

The more information you provide to your physician, the easier it will be for him or her confirm your symptoms as being related to a herniated disc in your neck or lower back. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to absolutely confirm the presence of a herniated disc.

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