5 Warning Signs of a Herniated Spinal Disc

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Spinal discs cushion your vertebrae, but when a disc gets damaged, it can cause intense, radiating pain. Learn the warning signs of a herniated spinal disc so you can get the care you need to start feeling better.

Herniated discs are some of the most common spinal injuries. They can be a source of significant pain and seriously impact your quality of life — and it’s important to take action if you think you have one.

Spinal discs sit between the vertebrae in your spine, and a disc herniates when the gel-like substance inside bulges or ruptures. While anyone can suffer a herniated spinal disc, it most often affects people between the ages of 30 to 50. 

Recognizing the early warning signs is the best way to get the care you need to relieve your symptoms. As a pain specialist, Dr. Maher Ibrahim and our team at Interventional Pain Management Associates can help.

Here are five key warning signs that might mean you have a herniated spinal disc.

1. Intense, persistent pain

The No. 1 warning sign of a herniated disc is intense and persistent pain in your back. You might feel a sudden burst of pain when you get hurt, and the pain typically radiates out from the damaged disc.

Depending on the affected nerves, your pain might spread down your limbs. For example, a herniated disc in your lower back might cause pain that radiates from your buttocks to your foot.

2. Numbness and tingling sensations

Another telltale sign of a herniated disc is numbness and tingling in (or around) your spine. These sensations develop because the herniated disc compresses specific nerves in your spinal cord. Some people notice the sensations come and go, while others find they persist over time.

If you have a herniated disc in your neck, numbness or tingling might travel to your arm or hand. A herniated disc in your lower back can cause these unpleasant sensations in your leg or foot.

3. Muscle weakness

Sometimes, a herniated disc compresses the nerves responsible for controlling certain muscles — and this can cause muscle weakness or difficulty performing specific movements.

For example, a herniated disc in your lower back can cause muscle weakness in your legs. If this happens, you might have difficulty walking, bending, or lifting objects. Always seek medical attention if you notice unexplained muscle weakness, especially if it occurs along with other symptoms.

4. Limited range of motion

A herniated disc can impact your flexibility and a significant decrease in range of motion can be a warning sign of herniation. You may feel stiff or struggle to move with activities that involve bending, twisting, or lifting.

A herniated disc in your neck can make it hard to comfortably turn your head or look up or down. A herniated disc in your lower back can limit your ability to bend forward or backward without pain.

5. Increased pain with certain movements

Herniated discs often cause persistent pain, but they can also trigger flares of pain with certain movements or activities. These movements will vary depending where your herniated disc is located, so pay attention to any specific movements that consistently trigger or intensify your pain.

If you have a herniated disc in your lower back, bending, coughing, or even sitting for prolonged periods may exacerbate the pain. If you have a herniated disc in your neck, tilting your head can make pain flare.

Back pain can be complex and difficult to diagnose. But learning to recognize the warning signs of a herniated spinal disc is crucial for early detection and appropriate treatment. 

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Don’t wait to get the care you need. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Ibrahim and our team for a comprehensive back pain evaluation. Call our office in Hamilton, New Jersey, at 609-838-2900 or send us a message online now.