How to Spot a Herniated Disc

Back pain has countless possible causes, so it shouldn’t surprise you that around 80% of Americans experience back pain at some point during their lives. Herniated discs are a prevalent cause of back pain, but how can you tell if a herniated disc is the root cause of your pain?

Here at Orthopedic & Wellness, in Waldorf, Maryland, we provide comprehensive exams to diagnose the cause of your pain. If you can explain your pain and symptoms to us in detail during your consultation, it helps us narrow down the range of conditions. 

Additionally, we want to empower you with knowledge about your body so you can make healthy choices about your lifestyle and your health care.

So, what is a herniated disc, anyway?

You know your spine is made up of a stack of vertebrae that allows you to twist and bend. Between each of your vertebrae are rubbery discs that cushion your bones, absorb shock, and support your spinal range of motion. 

Each disc consists of a rubbery outer shell, called an annulus, that surrounds a gel-like interior called the nucleus. A herniated disc develops when a tear in the annulus allows the nucleus to bulge out into your spinal column. Herniated discs can develop anywhere in your spine, but they’re most often found in your lower (lumbar) spine or your neck.

Your spinal column is compact, and there’s not a lot of extra room available for any part to swell or move out of place. That’s why it’s common for herniated discs to compress a spinal nerve and trigger disruptive symptoms. 

Common signs of a herniated disc

The symptoms of a herniated disc vary depending on factors such as its location. However, some of the common signs of a herniated disc include: 


Regardless of where your herniated disc is located, nerve compression often causes pain. Herniated discs can lead to lower back pain, neck pain, or pain that radiates through your buttocks, legs, shoulders, arms, or hands. 


A compressed nerve can also cause numbness, including tingling sensations. You might even feel an occasional jolt that shoots down a leg or through your shoulder and arm from a compressed nerve. 


Sciatica is a group of symptoms caused by the compression of your sciatic nerve. A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of sciatica. So if you have low back pain that radiates down one or both of your buttocks and legs, combined with weakness, numbness, and lost coordination, you should talk to a member of our team about your symptoms. 

Presence of other risk factors

We also consider other risk factors when diagnosing herniated discs. For example, some of the common risk factors for a herniated disc include:

The last two points might seem contradictory, but they’re both true. If you spend all day slouched at a desk then come home to lounge on a sofa, you may not have core strength or flexibility to protect your spine. However, physically demanding jobs also put stress on your spine and increase your risk of injury.

Ultimately, the best way to know if your back or neck pain is due to a herniated disc is to make an appointment with our experts here at Orthopedic & Wellness. Our goals are to relieve your pain and heal the underlying condition causing it. 

We want to provide lasting relief so you can get back to your regular activities and restore your quality of life. We offer customized treatment plans, including steroid injections, regenerative medicine, physical therapy, and minimally invasive spine surgery

Give us a call, send us a message here on our website, or use our convenient online booking feature to set up your consultation today.

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