Herniated disc symptoms, like many varieties of back pain, come in a wide range of descriptions, locations and levels of intensity. Symptoms might also vary greatly, depending on the actual cause and consequences of the herniation. While there is no sure way to diagnose a herniated disc without a positive confirmation via proper diagnostic imaging study, there are some indications that a disc abnormality might exist.
This resource section will examine the symptoms which are possible to experience in association with a bulging or ruptured disc. We will also discuss why most herniations are not symptom-generating and how a great number of disc issues are coincidental to any symptomatic expressions suffered.
Herniated discs which occur spontaneously due to sudden trauma to the spine will generally produce sharp pain. This acute back pain is normal to experience from any trauma and might occur even if no herniated disc injury exists.
Most mild to moderate disc injuries will heal on their own and the pain will typically resolve in 2 to 8 weeks.
Herniated discs occurring from idiopathic reasons or due to disc degeneration are often not symptomatic at all. Usually, these herniations will not create any pain and might go unnoticed for many years. Degeneration of the disc structures is completely normal and only creates pain in a very small percentage of affected individuals.
Learn all about the many possible symptomatic expressions caused by intervertebral protrusions in the following topical essays:
Discitis describes an infection of an intervertebral spacer.
Sciatica from a herniated disc is an added burden to an already miserable problem.
Herniated disc muscle imbalances may result if particular muscles are not innervated correctly and lose their physical abilities to function.
Herniated disc leg cramps are virtually always a result of lumbar herniations combined with sciatica symptoms.
Herniated disc incontinence is one of the worst possible symptomatic effects of cauda equina compression. Herniated disc problem urinating may involve the inability to pass urine or the inability to hold urine internally.
Herniated disc headaches are often related to a cervical intervertebral pathology.
Herniated disc foot drop describes a dorsiflexion deficit usually enacted by a lower back disc protrusion.
Herniated disc flare-ups are recurrent acute pain attacks that affect many patients throughout life.
Herniated disc dizziness and vertigo can occur in some patients who suffer high level cervical disc pathologies.
Associated neurological symptoms might accompany pain or may exist even when there is no pain at all. The most common of these neurological effects include: tingling, weakness or numbness in the affected area or in the region of the body served by the constricted spinal nerve root.
There are 3 main causes of neurological symptoms stemming from a herniated disc condition:
The first is due to mechanical compression of a nerve root. This is often called a pinched nerve when it occurs in the upper body and sciatica when it occurs in the lower back. In this situation, the bulging disc compresses a nerve root, limiting its proper function. This condition is also sometimes known as foraminal stenosis, although this same diagnosis can also exist due to other reasons, such as spinal osteoarthritis.
The second reason for neurological symptoms to occur is a herniation or rupture which impinges on the actual spinal cord or cauda equina. This event is typically diagnosed as spinal stenosis due to a disc protrusion. This can be a serious event in rare instances and is the source of such drastic symptoms as cauda equina syndrome. Many herniated discs impinge on the thecal sac, which surrounds the spinal cord, but do not create any neurological effects on the cord itself.
The third reason behind neurological symptoms is due to chemical radiculitis. This is a controversial diagnosis and describes irritation of the spinal nerve roots due to exposure to the nucleus pulposus proteins which escape from a ruptured disc. Typically, the body will absorb and neutralize these proteins without treatment, although this process may take some time to accomplish.
There is a wide range of structural and psychosomatic back pain syndromes which can create the exact same symptomology as a herniated disc. Patients who are diagnosed with a disc herniation should respond well to appropriate medical treatment.
If not, there is a very good chance that the condition has been misdiagnosed.
In these instances, the herniation exists, but it is completely coincidental to the pain. This is extremely common and is the primary reason why so many patients can not find relief from pain which they believe to be caused by a herniated disc.
After all, how can herniated disc treatment work to resolve pain, if the disc is not the actual source of the symptoms?
It is important to remember that the overwhelming number of herniated discs fall into 2 basic categories.
First are the ones which do not cause any pain or neurological symptoms at all. They are rarely even discovered, unless stumbled upon by chance during diagnostic imaging for an unrelated condition.
Second are the disc injuries which cause acute pain for a limited time frame and then fully resolve.
Herniated discs rarely cause perpetual pain, although they have a reputation for doing so. This unfair representation is not medically or historically accurate and has definitely been disseminated by the back pain industry due to antiquated Cartesian philosophies and perpetuated as a means of accomplishing the financial aspirations of care providers.
Learn the facts about herniated discs and you will find that most mild to moderate examples are simply not the nightmarish affliction portrayed in medical propaganda.