What're symptoms of a herniated disc?Many people who have a herniated disc are not aware of it because they have no symptoms of leg or back pain. Symptoms that do appear vary greatly, depending on the position of the herniated disc. Pain occurs when the membrane on the outside of the spinal cord or spinal nerves is irritated. Loss of function - such as weakness or altered sensation - can be caused by
pressure from the herniated disc on the nerve roots or spinal cord. Pain or numbness may occur in the area of the body to which the nerve travels. Herniated nucleus pulposus may occur suddenly from lifting, twisting, or direct injury, or it can occur gradually from degenerative changes with episodes of intensifying symptoms. The annulus may also become weakened over time, allowing stretching or tearing and leading to a disc herniation. Depending on the location of the herniation, the herniated material can also press directly on nerve roots or on the spinal cord, causing a shock-like pain (sciatica) down the legs, weakness, numbness, or problems with bowels, bladder, or sexual function.
The most common symptom of a herniated disk is lower back pain following a fall, injury to the back, or after lifting a heavy object. The path the pain follows depends upon which disk is herniated and which spinal nerve is inflamed or damaged. Pain that radiates from the lower back area, through the hip or buttocks, and down the back of the thigh to the knee or the whole way to the foot is a sign of sciatica. Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, which follows this path on either side of the body. Other symptoms of a herniated disc can include a tingling or numb sensation in a leg or loss of bladder or bowel control. Where the pain occurs depends on which disc is herniated and which spinal nerve root is affected. The pain is felt along the pathway of the nerve compressed by the herniated disk. For example, a herniated disc commonly causes sciatica. The pain varies from slight to debilitating, and movement intensifies the pain. Numbness and muscle weakness may also occur. If the pressure on the nerve root is great, the legs may be paralyzed. If the cauda equina (the bundle of nerves extending from the bottom of the cord) is affected, control of bladder and bowels can be lost. If these serious symptoms develop, medical attention is required immediately.