5 Signs You Have A Herniated Spinal Disc

29 Nov 5 Signs You Have A Herniated Spinal Disc

Millions of Americans live with back pain every single year. Almost 80% of people will have back pain at some point in their lives and between one third and two-thirds of the population live with chronic back pain according to the British Medical Journal. If you haven’t heard the statistics, you probably know somebody affected by back pain or you yourself might have back pain. But how do you know if you’ve pulled a muscle versus something more serious like a thoracic spine herniated disc? We’ve put together the five key questions you NEED to answer before you see you consider seeing your Doctor.


  1. What were you doing?


When you arrive at the surgery one of the first things a Doctor will ask is what were you doing when you first noticed the pain? Did it come on gradually or suddenly? This seems obvious but it can be crucial to the diagnosis. If you simply twisted awkwardly and hurt your back it might suggest a pulled muscle. However, if you were involved in contact sports it could suggest a more serious vertebral fracture.


  1. What does it feel like?


Buttock pain due to Herniated Spinal DiscHerniated Discs can cause the following symptoms:


  • Lower back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Buttock pain
  • A shooting sensation


The actual symptoms you experience can change depending on where in the spine you have the herniated disc.


  1. How long have you had it?


A patient who has had symptoms for a week or so may have just pulled a muscle in their back, so the Doctor will usually ask this. Longer term back pain that isn’t healing over time can be a sign of a herniated disc.


  1. What other symptoms do you have?


There are a number of very serious considerations to rule out. The most important of these is known as Cauda Equina syndrome. This is when a disc herniates at the bottom of the spinal cord and traps the nerves coming off the bottom of the cord (known a the cauda equina, Latin for horse’s tail as this is what the first anatomist thought the nerves looked like).


Patients with Cauda equina syndrome will have:


  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness of the buttocks (anal area) or the pelvic/genital region
  • Paralysis in the lower limbs (aka the legs)
  • Loss of control of their bowels
  • Loss of control of their bladder


If you have any of these symptoms you need to seek urgent medical attention. The Doctor will ask these questions in all patients just to rule out the serious syndrome.


  1. Your age


If you are reading this in your teens or early twenties you are far less likely to have a herniated disc than in your forties and fifties. This is taken into consideration by the doctor when they see you


If you are diagnosed with a herniated disc, treatment can range from simple pain medication all the way to surgery. If your family doctor cannot provide the treatment you need – a specialist spine clinic can be helpful.


*Note – this article should not be substituted for genuine medical advice. If you have any queries or are suffering from back pain see you, doctor. *



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