Few things will disrupt your daily activities like a jolt of neck or back pain. Sometimes this seems to occur out of nowhere, making once easy motions and tasks like turning your head or tying your shoes nearly impossible. Could your pain be caused by a herniated disc?
Situated centrally within your body, the vertebral column (aka your “spine”) is made up of 33 individual stacked bones with 23 cushioning discs in between. Beginning at the base of your skull with the cervical region and ending at the coccyx (“tailbone”), your spine allows you to stand, twist, and bend, all while protecting your spinal cord. Healthy discs absorb shock, help hold adjacent vertebrae together, and are vital to proper spinal function.
Like any other body part, segments of the spine can become damaged over time or through certain activities. As we age, arthritic changes can occur within our spinal joints, and our discs can degenerate. The inner disc portion dehydrates, and its outer covering weakens, making it more vulnerable to small tears. Disc damage can result in a “bulge” that might– depending on its size– press on nearby nerves, causing pain and tingling or other abnormal sensations. (Watch a video.) Inflammation in this area can also cause these symptoms. Discs in the lumbar and cervical areas are more prone to herniation than those in the thoracic spine. Symptoms will vary by the location of the damaged disc.
Lumbar Herniated Disc Symptoms
A common symptom of lumbar disc herniation, sciatica (irritation of the sciatic nerve) is pain that “travels” from the buttock to the back of the leg and sometimes to the foot. You might also experience burning, numbness, and tingling sensations, as well as weakness in the ankle (e.g., foot drop). These symptoms typically get worse with prolonged sitting or standing, and bending forward at the waist. A rare yet serious condition requiring immediate medical attention, cauda equina syndrome occurs when there is significant nerve compression. This causes numbness in the saddle area, weakness in both legs, and loss of bladder and bowel function.
Cervical Herniated Disc Symptoms
A cervical herniated disc not only causes neck pain, but also can result in symptoms of nerve impingement (“pinched nerve”) in the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. Like with lumbar herniated discs, symptoms include burning pain, numbness and tingling, and weakness in these areas.
Having a herniated disc can keep you from your favorite activities and important tasks. If you think you might be suffering from a herniated disc, physical therapy can help. Our methods provide immediate pain relief, and we teach you how to condition your body to prevent re-injury. Call Sports Conditioning and Rehabilitation today at 714-633-7227 to schedule a free consultation today!