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5 Telltale Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Herniated discs are common spinal dysfunctions that don’t always cause symptoms, but when they do, these can be extreme and debilitating. Fortunately, most cases heal on their own, but you can often accelerate healing with treatment. 

Many people associate back pain from herniated discs with chiropractic care, and with good reason. Chiropractic adjustments restore alignment and balance to your spine. While ultimately it’s your body that deals with the damage of herniated discs, chiropractic treatment improves the efficiency with which you recover. 

The team at Active Care Chiropractic & Rehabilitation specializes in care and treatment of herniated discs as well as the associated symptoms, some of which are shared with other injuries or conditions. Visit us for an assessment and recovery plan. 

How herniated discs happen

Understanding the anatomy of spinal discs helps to visualize how a herniation happens. Given the role of discs as flexible movement points and shock absorbers, it makes sense that its tissue is soft and flexible. 

It’s a two-part system. The outer ring of a disc, called the annulus,  is rubbery but tough. It encloses the nucleus, a softer, gel-like center. Together, these tissues give the bones of your spine room to move, while absorbing some of the strains of movement. 

As you age, disc tissue loses moisture, like many other systems in your body. The annulus becomes more prone to failure, cracking or splitting under pressure. This allows the nucleus to escape. 

Problems begin in one of two ways. Spinal discs themselves are sparsely populated with nerve tissue. Should an annulus rupture occur near these nerves, you may have pain originating from the disc itself. However, it’s possible to have a herniation without disturbing the nerves of the disc. 

When escaping nucleus tissue presses on nerve roots that branch from the spinal cord, compression and irritation create symptoms. While there’s often pain at the point of nerve contact, you may also feel its effects anywhere along an affected nerve. 

5 telltale symptoms of a herniated disc

The pain and other sensations accompanying a symptomatic herniation can vary quite widely, depending on the location of the rupture and the severity of nerve compression. Even with this assortment of effects, though, there are some telltale symptom types that help to trace back pain to a herniated disc. 

Pain type

Back pain that may be dull and achy or sharp and intermittent, sometimes in combination together. Sharp pains are often described as stabbing or electrical in sensation, and may accompany certain motions, like bending forward, or as you cough or sneeze. 

Referred pain

Referred pain is felt along an affected nerve root’s path, not at the point of nerve irritation. Locations change based on the affected disc, and symptoms can include numbness and tingling along with or instead of pain. 

Sciatica symptoms in the leg are a type of referred pain from lumbar herniations, while less common cervical disc problems cause symptoms in the arms and hands. 

Muscle weakness

Sensory nerves cause pain and other sensations. Irritation of motor nerves can cause weakness, most often in the legs or hands. 

Muscle spasms

Most common with lower back pain, muscles may tighten, adding to your pain symptoms. There’s often significant improvement in pain symptoms when spasms ease. 

Changes to bladder and/or bowel function

A rare but serious complication of lower back disc herniation occurs when a nerve bundle called the cauda equina suffers from compression. These nerves control bladder and bowel operation, so a herniated disc could cause incontinence and other problems. 

Herniated discs can bring your life to a halt. Look to Active Care Chiropractic & Rehabilitation for relief and recovery. A regular routine of chiropractic treatment may even help you prevent future herniations. 

Contact the nearest of our six locations online or by phone to schedule a consultation today.

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