Spotting the Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc

Nearly everyone experiences back pain at some point in their lives, but additional symptoms like arm numbness and leg weakness are major red flags that something more than the run-of-the-mill pulled back muscle is to blame. If you’re dealing with sharp, intense back pain that doesn’t seem to let up, it’s possible that you have a herniated disc.

Scheduling a consultation with a pain management specialist is a good first step to getting answers and treatment that can provide much-needed relief. Here, the team at Carolinas Center for Advanced Management of Pain explains what you need to watch for.

Spinal anatomy

Your spine is a complex set of 33 bones, and each vertebra in your spine is cushioned by a disc. Think of the cushion between your vertebrae as a jelly donut. It has a soft interior encased by a tougher outer ring.

Vertebral discs play a key role in protecting your vertebrae by acting as a shock absorber when you walk, run and move dynamically. Most people don’t give their spinal discs a second thought unless something goes wrong.

Understanding disc herniation

Injury or weakness can cause the jelly-like inner portion of your spinal discs to protrude through the outer ring. This is known as a herniated disc. People who have a herniated disc often experience intense back pain. In some cases, the slipped disc can press against nerves in your spine, causing abnormal sensations, including tingling and numbness.

A herniated disc can happen in any part of your spine. The lower back is one of the most common areas for a slipped disc to occur.

Who is at risk for a herniated disc?

While a herniated disc can happen to anyone, you’re at a higher risk if you:

Accelerated wear and tear on the structure of your spine is one of the most common causes of a herniated disc. Being overweight and working in a job that requires heavy lifting can place excess strain on the discs of your spine, increasing your risk of sustaining a herniated disc. Athletes who play sports that require certain repetitive motions are also at a higher risk of herniating a disc in their spine.

3 warning signs of a herniated disc

Back pain is serious, and you shouldn’t ignore it when it arises. Knowing the difference between typical back pain and something more serious — such as a herniated disc — can put you on the path to proper treatment. Here are three things to watch for.

Arm numbness

A nerve root can become irritated from a herniated disc. When this happens, the signals sent between your nerves and your brain may not match up. A major warning sign that you may have a herniated disc is numbness or tingling sensations radiating down your arm.

You may even notice that your arm feels weak or that you’ve lost some strength in your arm. If you’re experiencing back pain with symptoms of tingling or numbness in the arms or legs, it’s time to see a professional.

Pain that gets worse when you stand up

When you have a herniated disc, any pressure placed on your spine causes the pain to worsen. People with a slipped disc often find that their back or neck pain gets worse when they stand up and is relieved when they lie down. Lying down takes pressure off of your spine, helping to alleviate the pain.

Intense, radiating pain in your lower back

Heavy pain throughout your lower back and waist that extends down your legs and lasts more than two weeks is a warning sign that you may have a herniated disc. Experiencing any chronic back pain is a reason to see a specialist as soon as possible, but especially if you notice that the pain radiates down one or both legs.

Herniated disc treatment

The specialists at Carolinas Center for Advanced Management of Pain help patients get to the root of their back pain. Following a comprehensive evaluation, your provider creates an individualized treatment plan to reduce your pain and promote functional improvement.

Your treatment may begin with therapies that strengthen your body to prevent further pain, such as physical therapy, hot and cold therapy, and electrical stimulation. Other treatment options include nerve blocks, spinal injections, and radiofrequency ablation.

If you need top-quality pain management, we have locations in Greenville, Spartanburg, Columbia, and Anderson, South Carolina, as well as Asheville and Gastonia, North Carolina. Call the office nearest you to set up a consultation and get on the path to pain relief.

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