The most basic definition of a hernia is one type of tissue pushing through another in an abnormal way. A herniated disc in your spinal discs happens when the soft inner tissue presses through a rupture in the damaged outer shell. It’s possible for a herniated disc to occur and heal naturally without any symptoms, but often this escaping tissue presses on or irritates nerve tissue, creating pain symptoms.
Usually, herniated discs respond to rest and conservative care, but there are times when these efforts fail to produce improvements to your condition. In extreme cases, spine surgery may be necessary. The doctors at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center are with you all the way through back pain issues. Here’s how to recognize potential disc herniation and how to handle your condition.
The signs of a herniated disc
The location of your symptoms sometimes offers clues about the location of the herniated disc. Usually, the disc is in your lower back, causing symptoms at the point of herniation as well as potentially along the path of an affected nerve. If the sciatic nerve is involved, this could mean symptoms anywhere between your lower back and your feet.
Though less common, you can experience a herniated disc in your neck. The effects are similar, but symptoms manifest in your shoulders, arms, and hands. Regardless of where the herniation occurs, it usually has three types of effects on your body.
Pain is the most obvious and often the most troublesome symptom. Caused by a herniated disc, it’s most often described as burning, stabbing, or sharp pain. It can come on suddenly, such as when you cough or move in or out of some positions.
Tingling and numbness are also frequent complaints. These can occur along with or instead of pain. It’s possible that you may have pain in one location and numbness elsewhere along the affected nerve’s path. This sensation is common with disc herniations that affect the sciatic nerve.
When a herniated disc contacts a motor nerve, you may experience weakness or instability. Again, this may or may not accompany pain symptoms. Your grip strength, for example, could suffer from disc problems in your neck.
Conditions that produce similar symptoms
The symptoms of herniated discs aren’t by any means exclusive. There’s a range of other conditions that cause similar effects, and some can’t be detected with diagnostic imagery. These conditions include:
- Piriformis syndrome: a muscle in the buttock that’s adjacent to the sciatic nerve
- Sacroiliac joint pain: at the point where the spine and pelvis connect
- Gluteus medius muscle pain: creates buttock pain above the hip
- Nerve entrapments: location of symptoms depends on which nerve is affected
Some of these non-herniation issues are diagnosed using targeted nerve blocks to pinpoint where the issue originates before effective treatment begins. This reduces the chances of misdiagnosis.
Contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center if you’re dealing with chronic pain that could be related to herniated discs. We have two offices in Phoenix and one in Sun City, Arizona, and you can reach us by phone or using the online appointment request link. Get the specialist care you need by booking today.