Back pain, leg pain or weakness in the lower extremity muscles are often the signs of the herniated disc. What is a herniated disc? Herniation means that the cushion that is between the vertebras in the spine is being pushed out of its usual position. The problem with the herniated disc is that near to the spinal discs the spinal nerves are located.
This soft cushion that sits between the vertebrae, or in other words, the spinal disc is soft in a young person but it normally becomes less elastic with age. This means that the risk of the spinal disc getting an injury rises. Actually, MRIs prove that even 30 years olds have the spinal disc deterioration in up to 30% of the tested.
What is a herniated disc rather than the rupture of the spinal disc? The disc becomes less and less elastic, this causes for the part of the spinal disc to bulge outside of its typical limits. As a result, this causes for the spinal nerves and the spinal card to become pinched.
Although most of the times this is still not enough to raise concern because there is still an extra space around the spinal nerves and cord, the structure might become suppressed if enough of the herniated disc to do so is pushed through.
It is possible for the herniated disc to appear as a sudden result of a fall or an accident or it may appear gradually as a result of a repetitive straining of the spine. It is not uncommon among people with the herniated disc to already have the spinal stenosis. The spinal stenosis causes shrinking of the space around the spinal nerves and the cord. A herniated disc may contribute to that problem and further diminish the space for the nerves, in which case the irritation of the nerves occurs.
Once the spinal nerves of the spinal cords become pressured, they are not able to work properly anymore. As a result the signals from the compressed nerves either get passed abnormally or not get passed at all. There are certain symptoms that indicate a herniated disc:
1. Electric shock pain – because of the pressure on the nerves an unusual sensation, typically electric shock pains may occur. If the shocks appear in the arm, that means that the cervical, or neck area is being compressed, but if the shocks go down your leg, that means that the lumbar, or lower back area is being compressed.
2. Tingling and numbness – it’s common for the patients with a herniated disk to experience tingling or numbness usually in the same area as the electric shock sensations.
3. Muscle weakness – signals from the brain may be damaged and cause muscle weakness as a result of the nerve irritation. Such irritation can easily be tested by reflexes examination.
4. Bowel or bladder problems – these symptoms are especially important, because they can be a sign of a very serious condition called cauda equina syndrome that may be caused by the hernia. In such case seeing a doctor is highly recommended.
What is a herniated disc can easily be established after a physical examination, specifically after testing sensations, muscle strength, and reflexes. MRI usually assists in diagnosing this condition as well, although its results should only be considered together with the results of the physical examination.