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Four Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc

Four Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc

Herniated discs are one of the top causes of back and neck pain. They also occur sooner in life than you may expect, most often appearing between ages 30 and 50.

Our skilled team at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, P.C., encourages you to seek early treatment because you heal faster and lower the risk of progressive problems leading to disability. 

You can get treatment as quickly as possible when you recognize the following four warning signs.

Back or neck pain

One of the first signs of a herniated disc is localized pain in your lower back or neck, depending on the location of the disc. The pain often begins because the damaged disc pushes against a nerve. However, pain could arise from other structures and spine problems.

The supporting muscles take on more stress when the disc doesn’t function. That means you may have muscle spasms or muscle pain when you move.

Healthy spinal discs cushion the spaces between vertebrae, supporting your ability to twist and bend while absorbing the pressure caused by movement. Once the disc is damaged, it can’t function properly, leading to bone rubbing against bone and pain when you move, cough, or stand for a long time.

Pain radiating into your extremities

When the herniated disc compresses a nerve, you may have symptoms that go the entire nerve length. 

A herniated disc in your neck (cervical spine) sends pain down your arm, while a damaged disc in your lower back (lumbar spine) causes pain radiating down your legs. In many cases, the pain goes into your hands or feet.

The type of pain varies for each person, ranging from aching and constant to severe and sudden. However, pinched nerves are known for causing an excruciating burst of pain along your arm or leg.

Sciatica is one of the most common examples of nerve-related pain. The sciatic nerves leave your lower spine and travel into your legs and feet. A pinched sciatic nerve causes sudden, electric-shock pain in one leg.

Unusual nerve sensations or numbness

In addition to pain, a pinched nerve may cause sensations like tingling (pins and needles) and burning. These feelings may affect your neck or back and travel into your arms or legs.

A severely damaged nerve has the opposite effect because it stops sending signals. As a result, you lose feeling, and your arm or leg turns numb.

Muscle weakness

The pinched nerve may stop carrying messages from your brain to your muscles, leading to muscle weakness in your arm or leg. 

Beyond general weakness and feeling like your muscles are sluggish, this problem can affect muscle control in your hands and feet. You may have difficulty grasping and holding items or trouble lifting your foot when walking.

Signs you need emergency treatment

The longer pinched nerves go untreated, the higher your risk of developing a rare problem called cauda equina syndrome. The cauda equina nerves control your legs, bladder, and bowel.

Red flags signaling nerve damage include:

Saddle anesthesia is the loss of feeling in the body areas that would touch the saddle when riding a horse: your inner thighs, groin, and lower buttocks.

Without quick treatment, cauda equina can cause permanent damage, including paralysis.

Do not wait to seek help for a herniated disc

No matter what symptoms you have, the sooner you seek help, the better your chances are for a fast recovery. Waiting to get treated gives the damage time to get worse, leading to increased pain and slow recovery.

At Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, P.C., we specialize in conservative, non-surgical care for herniated discs before considering minimally invasive procedures to repair the problem.

Call the nearest office in Hood River or The Dalles, Oregon, or request an appointment online today to start on the road to recovery from a herniated disc.

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