A herniated disc may be referred to by many names, such as a slipped disc, or a ruptured or bulging disc. The vertebrae that form the spine are cushioned by round, flat disc. When these discs are healthy, they act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep the spine flexible. If they become damaged, they may bulge abnormally or break open. When the disc ruptures, a portion of the spinal disc pushes outside its normal boundary–this is called a herniated disc.
This can be caused by degeneration of the spine or a result of trauma or injury. A disc herniation can occur in any part of your spine and can irritate a nerve resulting in numbness, weakness, or pain in your back, neck, arm, or leg. The symptoms may be severe enough to disrupt your life and require surgical treatment, but usually the condition gets better with lifestyle modification and conservative therapy.
Herniated disc symptoms
It can be difficult to tell if you have a herniated disc because the symptoms can be mild and can come and go. When symptoms are severe, this can indicate a wide range of spinal or nerve conditions that you should consult your doctor before returning to normal activities.
That said, look out for these warning signs of a herniated disc:
- Pain and numbness on one side of your body
- Pain that shoots down your leg (usually just one)
- Pain while walking
- Pain that worsens after sitting
- Pain that worsens after sleeping
- Tingling in your hips and legs
- Weakness in your legs
A good way to determine if you have a herniated disc is to visit your physician. Likely, your doctor will do a physical exam and may even take an x-ray. While an x-ray won’t show a herniated disc, it can help rule other causes of your pain like a fracture. If your doctor recommends having an MRI, this test can show detailed 3-D images of the spinal cord and pinpoint if there is a herniated disc and also shows which nerves are affected.
If you are experiencing any warning signs of a herniated disc and your symptoms have lasted more than two weeks please call to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Dr. Ramesh Chandra has been practicing orthopedic surgery in the Washington DC Metropolitan area since 1984. The Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine is easily accessed from anywhere in the Washington DC metropolitan area with offices located in Falls Church, Reston/Herndon and Tysons Corner. For all appointments and inquiries, please call 703 848-0800 or click here to request an appointment online.