Health Blog

How Do You Know if You Have a Herniated Disc?


Do you have sharp pain in a particular part of your arm or leg? It may be a herniated disc. However, it could be another problem. Herniated or bulging discs are often blamed for radiating pains, numbness and tingling in the extremities, but they are often not the culprits.


Herniated discs are caused by the gradual or traumatic tearing of the rings that make up the discs. The rings are much like the cross section of a tree trunk, with a jelly like nucleus in the middle. Discs are the shock absorbers between each vertebra in your spine. Their purpose is to provide stability, support and shape.


All those times you lifted heavy objects poorly or got slightly injured, feeling a sore back or neck, means you could have done micro-tearing of the discs. Over time, this repetitive injury can lead to the nucleus of the disc oozing backwards and out into the canals where your nerves exit from your spine, to different parts of your body.


Herniated discs can occur in all parts of the spine, but typically occur in the lower lumbar levels (L3-S1) or mid cervical (neck C3-C6) levels. Discs swell over night and you can actually gain ½ inch of height, so symptoms are typically worse in the morning.


Here are some common herniated disc symptoms:


  • Gradual numbness or tingling in a specific part of an arm, hand, leg or foot
  • Specific pain in the leg or arm, can be sharp and typically worse in the mornings
  • Difficulty with moving or bending in the mornings
  • Possible weakness in the leg, foot, arm or hand
  • Pain is more one sided


Things to consider:


  • You can have a bulging disc or herniated disc without symptoms and many people do. It doesn’t mean you need to have surgery.
  • Most herniated and bulging discs can be conservatively treated with physical therapy without ever needing surgery.
  • MRIs can show a positive herniated or bulging disc in more than 30% of the population without ever having symptoms. Therefore, just because you have a herniated or bulging disc on an MRI, it doesn’t mean that it is the cause of your symptoms.
  • Sciatica is an impingement of the sciatic nerve, typically deep in the buttock. This can often mimic the symptoms of a herniated disc.

What to do

If you are having radiating pain in the arm or legs, it is best to first see a physical therapist. In most states, you can now see a physical therapist directly without having to go to a doctor first. Physical therapists are medical specialists in analyzing spinal and body movement. We can discover what is the root cause of your pain and treat it naturally, without the need for medication, injections or surgery. By restoring proper movement and strength through specialized techniques many back pains, neck pains and other musculoskeletal problems can be completely treated.

If you are concerned about a possible herniated disc causing your symptoms or have a friend that has the above symptoms, contact Orthopedic and Balance Therapy today to speak with one of our physical therapists. Discover how we can help you have a pain free and active life.

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Tim Nash
Tim Nash
15:32 27 Aug 18
My first experience with OBTS was very positive. During the course of my 13 therapy sessions I worked with many different therapists and all of them were professional and competent. They were able to help me effectively control my pain without medication using their therapy program. Unfortunately, they could not get my physical condition back to the same ability as before. However, this is due to the fact that it was later determined by my doctors that I required surgery. I plan on returning to OBTS for my post-op physical therapy and have already scheduled my evaluation appointment. Scheduling seems to be a challenge sometimes but that's probably an indication of their patient's satisfaction and good reviews. Thank you OBTS!
Arlene Gross
Arlene Gross
15:58 22 Jun 18
Everyone that worked with me was helpful. I enjoyed watching the staff interact as they worked as they laughed and smiled making me feel that it was fun to exercise. My knee pain is less and I look forward to having the same results with my back.
Jose Ico
Jose Ico
12:43 27 Apr 18
My wife and I have been coming here for a year. They have wonderful customer service and the treatments were great. I could say that since coming here for treatments, I am now able to walk properly and sleep well at nights. They help you in the best way possible. The people here are great and we definitely recommend it to everyone!
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Paul Grant
21:51 03 Apr 18
I have read lots of reviews that say "the entire staff of ..." is great, and you know that it is BS.. .. Butt at OBTS that statement is true. The person answering the phone, appointment setting they work around my schedule. It is truly a team concept. Everyone that has work with/on me keeps me focus on getting healthy to play golf.... Even those employees that haven't work with/on me are upbeat, positive and encouraging both their patients and me..... follow up phone calls, positive, hand written notes of encouragement, reminding me to do my homework so I can play golf this year. Great Employees, Great Business!.
Diane Burns
Diane Burns
02:30 16 Mar 18
I’ve had an incredible experience here at OBTS. In just two and half weeks I’ve seen and felt remarkable results. My hip mobility has improved by 30%. I credit the excellent physical therapists and the deep tissue laser therapy for my gains. I’ve gone from walking with a limp and pain everyday to walking normally and know that I’ll be back to running in the future. Every single person is warm and friendly here. Great place!
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