Spinal discs are designed to be spongy enough to cushion the backbone yet strong enough to endure the burden of daily movements. Still, these discs can be damaged by age-related wear or injury to the point where inner disc material pushes outward or the disc itself slips out of place. However, not all symptoms associated with slipped or bulging discs are obvious. How can you know if you have issues with your spinal discs? Here are some telltale signs to look out for.
Lower/Upper Body Pain
Most slipped or bulging discs affect the lower spine, although the neck area can be affected as well. If the problem disc is in your neck or upper back area, you might feel pain extending to your arms or shoulders. If a disc in your neck is severely damaged, treatment may require a surgical procedure such as one that replaces the diseased disc with a mobi-c artificial cervical disc. Santa Monica residents should see a spine specialist if symptoms are severe or prolonged.
When a disc in your lumbar (lower) back is damaged, you might experience:
• Pain extending down one leg if your sciatic nerve is irritated by a slipped/bulging disc
• Dull or throbbing lower back pain
• Discomfort radiating to your thighs, buttocks, or legs
• Pain aggravated by movement
• Numbness or general weakness
• Symptoms that worsen when getting up from a seated position
Pain That Develops Quickly and Then Goes Away After Several Weeks
Disc-related pain sometimes comes on suddenly without any clear cause, such as a hard fall or impact. While this can happen with cervical discs, it’s more likely to occur with lumbar discs. The symptoms can be very painful and disruptive, but they usually don’t stick around too long. In fact, 90 percent of individuals with a herniated disc in the lower back area experience relief from symptoms after about six weeks even if they haven’t had any treatment other than standard self-care (e.g., rest, over-the-counter pain meds, or NSAIDs).
Specific Risk Factors
Slipped or bulging discs can affect anyone at any age. However, there are certain risk factors that increase the odds of developing disc-related problems. For example, underlying conditions such as osteoarthritis of the spine (“spinal arthritis”) can accelerate the wear of disc-supporting structures, and being active in contact sports or performing repetitive neck or lower back movements can place added stress and strain on spinal discs. Also, consider these disc-related facts:
• Adults between 35 and 50 years old are more likely to experience issues related to herniated discs
• Men are almost twice as likely as women to develop herniated discs
• Disc damage is more likely to be experienced by people with physically demanding occupations
• Being overweight increases the risk of developing disc problems
If you’re experiencing symptoms similar to the ones listed above, that doesn’t automatically mean you have a slipped or bulging disc. Nerve compression from other sources such as bone spurs can produce similar symptoms. The only way to know for sure is to receive a positive diagnosis from your doctor or a spine specialist. This process usually involves a physical exam and image tests.
Most instances of spinal disc pain are manageable with physical therapy and medication or a procedure performed by a minimally invasive spine surgeon. Santa Monica residents who are experiencing signs of disc trouble or any other spine issues should reach out to the spinal health experts at The Spine Institute. Our highly experienced physicians lead the industry with innovative techniques and cutting-edge technology. Call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.