How to Tell If You Have a Herniated Disc
You wanted to move the television in your living room to the master bedroom upstairs in order to make space for the larger widescreen coming tomorrow. The TV is pretty big, but nothing you can’t handle. So, you wrap your arms around it and lift. Going up the stairs, you sense a sharp pain in your back.
That quick shot up your spine is the last thing you wanted to feel. Back injuries can be an extraordinarily painful experience, and sometimes require major surgery. However, at times it is difficult to distinguish between a serious injury like a ruptured or herniated disc and a strain or pulled muscle in your back. Over time, and with a trip to the doctor, you will know. However, there are a few immediate signs that let you know you are dealing with something more than a short-term injury.
- A combination of back and leg pain. This may include numbness, tingling and weakness along the compressed nerve. The back pain will typically shift to one of your legs after a few days. The burning sensation, or electric shock as it is sometimes called, will follow the nerve from the lower back and down the back of the thigh and into the calf or foot. This pain is called sciatica, for the sciatic nerve that runs through this area.
- Abnormal sensations. Along the pinched nerve, you may experience numbness or a “pins and needles” feeling, or just a pain you don’t typically feel. Any abnormalities along the nerve are an indicator of a disc injury.
- Atrophy. This term is used when muscles become smaller because of lack of use. If your muscles feel weak, it may be that the normal signals from the brain to the spinal cord and thus to your muscles are not being processed through your nerves.
- Bladder and bowel functions. Only in the most severe and rare situations will your bladder and bowel functions be affected. The nerves that pass through this area of the lower back are well protected; however, if this does occur, immediate treatment, which may include surgery, is necessary.
You should proceed with caution when dealing with back pain, as it can lead to serious damage. Remembering these signs will help you to better distinguish between severe soreness and a herniated disc. If you are in doubt, it is always best to check with an orthopedist.