Herniated discs don’t always cause pain or other symptoms, but the complexity of the spine and its associated structures means there’s always a chance a complication will arise due to displaced disc tissue.
Considering the loads that everyday living places on the lower back, discs in the lumbar region are the most likely to suffer rupture. Because of this localization, certain symptoms can give you clues that you’re experiencing a disc problem.
The doctors at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center specialize in herniated disc treatment, from conservative therapies to surgery for extreme cases. Fortunately, most cases of disc rupture resolve themselves with rest and time. Visit us when these three telltale symptoms don’t improve with time.
The anatomy of spinal discs
The bones of the spine need space from each other to move while avoiding direct bone-on-bone contact. Spinal discs add that space as well as providing shock absorption to cushion your spine against the forces of movement.
The annulus is a disc’s tough outer ring. It attaches to its adjacent vertebrae, acting as a spacer and enclosing the nucleus, a gel-like filling that provides a dampening effect to absorb force and vibration. Over time, the annulus becomes more dry and brittle while the nucleus may lose volume.
This is called degenerative disc disease. The outer shell can rupture, allowing the inner gel to escape. When it comes into contact with nerve tissue, pain often results.
There are three common symptoms that can occur following a disc herniation.
1. Pain when you’re sitting
The lower back absorbs a tremendous amount of strain when you’re seated. After a disc rupture happens, this strain can change the shape of the nucleus bulge. When it’s pressed into nerve tissue, the contact can cause irritation and pressure that generates pain signals.
You may experience pain at the site of the herniation or anywhere along the path of the nerve beyond the point of irritation. You might experience sharp pain when sitting down or standing up, or aching pain as you’re seated.
2. Activity-related pain
You may feel sudden, stabbing pain when performing specific activities or movements. These could also aggravate other symptoms of the herniated disc. As well as sitting or standing, these motions can include:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Bending or leaning forward
- Sneezing or coughing
- Pulling or pushing a heavy load
- Twisting to one side
- Reaching away from the body
Your responses may not be consistent, causing pain sometimes but not always.
3. Sciatica symptoms
Herniated discs can create symptoms other than pain at the site of the injury. Referred or radiated pain results along the path of the affected nerve, but you may instead feel numbness or tingling. When nerves that control muscles experience compression, your symptoms could also include weakness.
The sciatic nerve is commonly affected by lumbar disc herniation, and this could create symptoms through your buttocks and outer thighs, and into your lower legs and feet.
Contact our office in Scottsdale, Arizona when you need relief from back pain, regardless of its cause. You can schedule an appointment online or by calling us directly to consult with one of our neurosurgeons to minimize the impact of your herniated disc. Book your visit now.