Herniated Disc Symptoms
A herniated disc also referred to as ruptured or slipped disc, occurs when there is a problem with the spinal discs, the soft rubbery cushions between the vertebrae that make up the spine. As individuals age, the spinal discs become less elastic and thus can rupture. A disc is said to have ruptured when all or part of it is forced outside its normal boundary. They can also rupture at a younger age because of injuries.
A herniated disc can touch the surrounding nerves of the spine causing weakness and pain or numbness in the limbs. However, some people experience no herniated disc symptoms and a spinal image may be required to make a diagnosis.
The type of herniated disc symptoms one experiences will depend on the location along the spine of the ruptured disc as well as the size of the herniation. The majority of herniated discs happen in the lumbar spine (lower back) or in the cervical spine (neck). However they may also occur in the thoracic spine (upper back).
If herniation has occurred in the lower back, sciatica may occur due to pressure applied on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is described as pain that travels through the buttock, down a leg to the ankle or foot. The pain can be mild to very severe. With a herniation in the neck pain or numbness in the shoulders, arms, or chest may occur. When you cough, sneeze or move your spine in certain positions, it can make the pain worse.
Thoracic spine herniated disc symptoms are rare and if there is pain, it is usually felt in the upper back or chest area.
Generally, herniated disc symptoms are caused by the herniated disc pressing against and irritating the nerves. This pressure on the nerves interferes with the pathways by which brain signals are sent to the body’s extremities and back.
Typical herniated disc symptoms include:
Tingling or pin and needles sensation and numbness in the part of the body served by the affected nerves.
Electric shock pains which go down the arms if nerve compression has occurred in the neck or down the legs if nerve compression is in the lower back region.
Muscle weakness and pain or spasms which are caused by the interference of brain signals.
Loss of bladder or bowel control which is a symptom of cauda equine syndrome, a rare but severe and specific nerve root compression. Bladder or bowel problems accompanied with weakness in both legs, and numbness around the genital area are very serious herniated disc symptoms and medical help should be sought immediately.
Herniated discs occur mainly in middle-aged and older individuals and often after strenuous activity. However there are other risk factors such as congenital conditions affecting the lumbar spinal canal size. In most instances herniated disc symptoms will go away on their own with rest and treatment, but at time herniated disc back surgery is needed.