Could My Shooting Spine Pain Be a Herniated Disc?

by Courtney Gittins

Back pain that radiates down the arm and leg is a common symptom of a herniated disc, which can lead to debilitating discomfort and limited mobility—making everyday activities difficult.

Herniated discs are a common back injury and can affect people of any age. They typically result in severe and/or sharp pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected area.

If you are experiencing pain in your spine that radiates to your arms and legs, then contact us today at OrthoNeuro for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan that can lead to pain relief! Our expert spine specialists in the Greater Columbus area have helped many dealing with a herniated disc to find relief from pain.

A warehouse worker in Columbus, OH wondering if his shooting spine pain means he has a herniated disc.

What is a Herniated Disc? 

A herniated disc is a condition that occurs when the soft cushioning between the vertebrae of the spine bulges or breaks open. This can put pressure on nearby nerves and cause nerve pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in different areas throughout the body. The sciatic nerve is typically affected in this type of condition, and sciatica is a common symptom.

What Are the Causes of a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc occurs when the cushion between two vertebrae – known as the intervertebral disc – is damaged or ruptures, causing the inner core to leak into the surrounding tissue and press on the spinal cord nerves. Depending on the severity of the herniation, people may experience mild to extreme pain that radiates from their back to their arms, legs, hands, and feet.  

A herniated disc can be caused by age-related degeneration, trauma or injury to the spine, or other long-term issues such as bone spurs that narrow the spinal canal. Repetitive motions, like those often used in athletics, heavy lifting, or poor posture, can also lead to a herniated disc. 

What Are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

Some common symptoms of a herniated disc include: 

  • Upper back pain 
  • Neck pain
  • Leg pain
  • Sharp Pain
  • Burning pain 
  • Referred pain in the lower back, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet 
  • Numbness and tingling near the pinched nerve
  • Weakness in your leg muscles 
  • Pain that worsens with activities such as bending, lifting, and twisting

In some cases, a herniated disc may cause no symptoms at all. However, if left untreated, it could result in more serious complications such as nerve damage, chronic pain, and even paralysis. 

When to See a Doctor for Sharp Spine Pain

Severe pain in the spine can be an indicator of a serious underlying medical condition that requires immediate treatment. It is vital to seek immediate medical attention as soon as possible if you feel spinal pain that: 

  • Is severe and unrelenting
  • Causes numbness or weakness in any part of your body
  • Makes it difficult to move, stand up, or walk
  • Follows an injury, such as a fall or car accident

How is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

A herniated disc is usually diagnosed by a physical examination and an imaging scan, such as an MRI or CT scan. If pain is localized to the area of the spine affected by the herniation, that can be indicative of a disc problem. 

If the physical examination makes the pain worse when certain movements are made or specific positions are held, that could also signal the presence of a herniated disc. 

Another diagnostic tool is nerve conduction velocity (NCV). NCV measures how fast an electrical signal moves through a nerve and can detect if there is interference along the nerve’s path caused by a herniated disc. Ultimately, these tests help your doctor determine if you have a herniated disc and what treatment plan is best for you.

What Are the Treatment Methods for a Herniated Disc?

Depending on the severity of the injury and other factors such as age and health status, the different treatment methods for a herniated disc may include physical therapy, spinal injections, or even spinal surgery.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often prescribed for herniated disc patients in order to help relieve pain and improve spinal function. Physical therapy exercises may include stretching, strengthening, and mobility exercises to help reduce inflammation and improve spinal alignment.

Spinal Injections

Spinal injections are used to treat a herniated disc when physical therapy alone is not enough to provide relief. Steroid injections around the spinal nerve root can help reduce inflammation, while other spinal injections, such as nerve blocks, can help provide temporary relief from pain.

Spinal Surgery

In cases where the herniated disc is causing significant spinal nerve compression and symptoms persist despite physical therapy and spinal injections, spinal surgery may be recommended. Spinal surgery typically involves removing a portion of the herniated disc material in order to free up space inside the spinal canal and reduce spinal nerve compression.

Seek Pain Relief Today!

At OrthoNeuro, our team of highly trained spine specialists has years of experience in diagnosing and treating herniated discs and other spine-related issues. Our goal is to help our patients find relief from pain and other symptoms related to herniated discs so they can return to the activities they enjoy most. Contact one of our convenient locations in Columbus, OH today to schedule a consultation!

Medically reviewed by Larry T. Todd, D.O.

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