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How to Tell if You Have a Herniated Disc

How to Tell if You Have a Herniated Disc

Humans are no strangers to the occasional discomfort in their necks and backs, which makes sense given the enormous workloads that these areas take on. One of the more common problems are herniated discs, which come with a unique set of symptoms that set this condition apart from other back and neck issues.

To help you determine if a herniated disc is responsible for your discomfort, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants, which includes Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, have outlined the key characteristics of a herniated disc, in both your neck and your back. 

Herniated discs 101

Before we get into the symptoms that come with a herniated disc, let’s take a quick look at what this condition is and where it can develop.

Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that stretch from the base of your skull to your pelvis. To provide cushioning and support for these bony structures, your spine also features 23 discs that are located between the vertebrae. Each of these discs is made up of a tough, fibrous outer shell called the annulus that houses a jelly-like substance inside called the nucleus.

When a disc herniates, the nucleus pushes out through a tear in the annulus and irritates nearby nerve roots. Herniated discs occur most often in those areas of your spine that enjoy the most movement, including your cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). In most cases, herniated discs occur on the heels of degenerative disc disease and rarely develop due to trauma or injury. 

The three telltale signs of a herniated disc

If you have a herniated disc in your lower back or neck, you’ll likely experience these three telltale signs: 

1. Local pain

Herniated discs are hard to ignore thanks to the pain that accompanies this condition. This pain often flares with certain movements or positions. For example, if you have a herniated disc in your lower back, you might find sitting to be near impossible as this position places added pressure on your lumbar discs. If the problematic disc is in your neck, the pain may flare when you move your head in a certain way. 

2. Radiating pain

If you have a herniated disc in your neck, it can press up against the nerve that travels down into your arm, which means you may experience pain that radiates into your shoulder and arm.

By the same token, if you have a herniated disc in your lumbar spine, it can compress your sciatic nerve, causing pain to travel down one side of your buttocks and into your leg. In both cases, these radiating symptoms fall under radiculopathy and they usually only develop in one side of your limbs. 

3. Numbness and tingling

As we described above, a herniated disc can compress major nerve roots along your spine, which can cause radiating pain. This nerve compression, however, can also cause other symptoms, such as numbness and tingling.

These numbness and tingling sensations can travel down into your leg or arm, depending upon the location of the herniated disc.

If you’re still unclear as to whether you might be dealing with a herniated disc, we urge you to come see us so that we can perform a complete evaluation and get you set up with the right treatment plan. To get started, contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment. 

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