Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

An intervertebral disc - which separate the vertebral bones of the spine, is composed of two main sections:
  • The outer annulus fibrosus, which is composed of solid, durable bands of fibrocartilage.
  • The inner nucleus pulposus, which is composed of several difference substances, including water, which together compose a thick, jelly-like compound. The other substances, besides water , include chondrocyte-like cells, collagen fibrils, keratin sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and long hyaluronic chains.
Together, these two sections allow the spine to bend and rotate, while still maintaining enough strength to maintain separation of the vertebral bones and to maintain the size of the intervertebral foramen. The intervertebral foramen, is the space between the vertebral body and the facet joints, through which the spinal nerve roots exit the spine. When we put weight on our backs, The disc is pressed downwards and outwards, just like what would happen if you were pressing down on a jelly doughnut. The spine absorbs a lot of extra gravity as we sit, stand, and move, and the force upon the discs actually causes it to lose its fluid volume throughout the day as water escapes out of them. At night, the discs fully re-inflate as they become decompressed and absorb water. These discs can maintain their health for a long time, as long as the criss-crossed rings that make up the annulus remain strong. If this outer section rips, the inner materials within the annulus may flow out of it. This condition is known as a herniated disc.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc: Herniated discs do not result in neck pain or back pain in all cases. When pain and related symptoms do occur, it is usually because the disc herniated towards the back of the spine, where the spinal canal and nerve roots are. If the ejected disc material presses into the disc, it can cause a wide range of pain symptoms related to how it compromises the functioning of the affected nerves.
Cervical herniated disc symptoms include:
  • Neck Pain
  • Arm Pain. The nerve roots in the cervical spine (the first seven vertebrae) supply the structures in the head, neck and arms. If the herniated disc material presses or pinches a cervical nerve, a person may experience pain near the site of the nerve root compression, as well as at any point along the path of that main nerve branch.
  • Nerve Pain. Along with pain in the neck and radiating down one or both arms, a person may experience nerve pain and sensory loss, such as numbness, weakness, and burning in the shoulders arm, and hands.
  • Weakness. The weakness and sensory loss experienced in the arm may be accompanied by muscle weakness.
Lumbar symptoms of a herniated disc include:
  • Lower back pain
  • A sharp or dull pain in the hips, buttocks, and thighs
  • Weakness, numbness, and burning pain in the upper leg, lower leg, foot, and toes. As a result of L5 nerve impingement, these neurologic changes often affect the foot and toe, and may cause the inability to lift the foot (flex your foot towards your body), in the case of severe nerve root compression. As a result of S1 nerve impingement, patients may lose their ability to push off the ground. Pain an numbness is more likely to affect the sole and outside of the foot as a result of S1 nerve impingement.