Herniated discs are a common source of lower back and neck pain. However, discomfort from lumbar or cervical herniated discs may result in symptoms in other areas beyond where you’d expect to experience pain. Because disc herniation is related to nerve compression, what you feel may vary depending on where the disc is located and which nerve is affected. The staff at The Spine Institute in Beverly Hills shares some of the signs that may indicate you have a herniated disc in your lower back or neck.
Signs of Lumbar Disc Herniation
When discs in the lower spine are herniated, referring to inner disc material that presses outward and onto nerve roots, you’re likely to experience discomfort in your lower extremities. It’s usually nerve compression at the L4 or L5 level that results in radiating nerve pain felt in the hips, buttocks, thighs, or legs. Nerve compression at a higher level may result in discomfort limited to the lower back.
The most common source of radiating pain stemming from a herniated disc in the lower spine is the sciatic nerve. The longest single nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve extends from the lower back to the legs. Pressure on this nerve tends to result in pain signals sent downward. Part of the reason for the pain you feel is because the body views the protruding disc material as an intruder, which causes inflammation and additional nerve irritation.
Lumbar disc herniation symptoms may include:
- Difficulty lifting feet while walking or standing (“foot drop”)
- “Pins-and-needles” sensations in your legs or feet
- Numbness in your feet or toes
Signs of Cervical Disc Herniation
Any spinal discs can be affected by age-related wear and tear from the normal motions you make throughout the day. Discs that become herniated in your neck may also be affected by things like holding your neck to one side while on the phone or looking down to use mobile devices (“tech neck”). The extent of your symptoms will depend on the location of the disc and the extent of the damage.
Nerve compression at the C4 or C5 level is what usually results in pain felt within the neck area (rationalized pain). This is discomfort in the form of muscle weakness or pain related to movement you feel in your neck, shoulders, or upper arms. Nerve compression at the C6 or C7 disc level is what usually produces radiating nerve pain or discomfort felt elsewhere.
Cervical disc herniation symptoms may include:
- Radiating nerve pain in arms or shoulders
- Weakened grip strength
- Numbness in your fingers
Unless symptoms are severe (loss of bladder or bowel control) and debilitating, herniated discs rarely require minimally invasive spine surgery. Beverly Hills spine surgeons claim discomfort may be managed with rest, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medications, prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, and adjustments to diet and exercise routines. In some cases, related pain may also fade or ease over time as the disc settles or shifts.
Make sure to schedule an appointment with a trusted surgeon to make sure you are not living with a more serious condition than a herniated disc. At The Spine Institute Center, we specialize in a wide variety of surgical and non-surgical treatments for chronic back and neck pain, including spinal fusion surgery and spinal cord stimulation. Beverly Hills residents who are living with chronic back or neck pain should give us a call today at 310-828-7757.