Spotting the Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc

Jun 07, 2023
Spotting the Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc
Low back pain is a leading cause of doctor visits and missed time at work. It’s a common problem and often the origin of your pain is a herniated disc compressing nerve roots as they branch off of the spinal cord. Watch for these warning signs. 

At some point, about 80% of all American adults experience lower back pain. While there are many reasons for it, the most common cause is a herniated disc. Over time, the spongy discs between vertebrae dry out, becoming more fragile and prone to damage, which often takes the form of the outer layer splitting while the softer inner gel escapes. 

Discs can also bulge and change shape, contacting the delicate nerve tissue. Spinal discs also have nerve tissue, so a herniation can cause pain originating from the disc itself. No matter why your herniated disc causes pain, our team at Coast Neurosurgical Associates, located in Long Beach, California, has an answer. We’re herniated disc specialists, up to date with the latest techniques and treatments to relieve back pain. 

What is a herniated disc? 

A herniation occurs any time the tissue pushes through a weak spot in the tissue within which it’s normally contained. When applied to spinal discs, herniation occurs when the gel-like center of a disc, called the nucleus, pushes through the tougher outer ring called the annulus. 

Spinal discs can also deform and bulge without the nucleus breaking through. Though this might not technically be a herniation, it can cause the same challenges if the bulge affects nerve tissue. 

You can have a herniated disc without back pain symptoms. Sometimes, this type of hernia emerges in diagnostic imaging for unrelated conditions. 

When herniation becomes a problem

Your spine is a complex structure providing movement and flexibility as well as protection for your spinal cord. Some of the spaces through which nerve branches pass are narrow. Normally, the nerve tissue passes through without issue. But when disc tissue touches or presses on a nerve, irritation or pressure can cause pain and other symptoms. 

People with sciatica know the effects of an irritated or compressed nerve. It can produce pain at the site of sciatic nerve compression or anywhere along the nerve’s length. As well as pain, sciatica could include tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness. 

Spotting the warning signs of a herniated disc

There are some symptoms accompanied with lower back pain that can point to disc herniation as the cause. The radiating pain of sciatica is perhaps the best known. You could have signs of your herniation anywhere from the lower back to the foot, with most signs occurring in the buttocks and thighs. 

Sitting places an increased load on your lumbar spine. When you have a herniated disc, the load generated by sitting can push herniated tissue into a nerve, causing or intensifying lower back pain. 

Pain that accompanies certain movements or activities could also indicate the problem originates with a herniated disc. Common positions that cause pain include: 

  • Bending down
  • Leaning forward slightly, as when washing dishes
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Lifting, pushing, or pulling a heavy object

The good news is that pain from a herniated disc clears about 90% of the time within six weeks. 

Contact Coast Neurosurgical Associates when lower back pain interferes with your quality of life. Call our Long Beach, California, office directly or book an appointment online using the link on this page. Schedule your visit today.