A herniated disc can conceivably occur in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar region of the spine, although it is most likely to develop in the cervical and lumbar spine segments. That’s because the neck and lower back are both highly flexible and responsible for supporting significant body weight, which takes its toll over time. The thoracic spine, by comparison, is far more stable because it is attached to the rib cage.
The specific symptoms associated with a herniated disc also depend on the location of the disc degeneration. Most commonly, this condition is associated with localized pain near the origin of the tear in the disc wall, although symptoms can extend throughout the body when displaced disc material irritates or compresses a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord. In fact, when nerve root or spinal cord compression occurs it can result in symptoms that appear far from the origin of the problem, making diagnosis by a physician necessary for effective treatment.
Here are just a few examples of the symptoms that can develop as a result of a herniated disc:
- Cervical herniated disc – localized pain in the neck; pins and needles sensation, muscle weakness and numbness that travel through the shoulders, arms, hands, or fingers; difficulty walking; a feeling of heaviness in the hands and feet; a decline in fine motor skills
- Thoracic herniated disc – upper back pain that can radiate into the chest or stomach; back stiffness and muscle weakness; symptoms caused by a herniated disc in the thoracic spine that can also be incorrectly attributed to a problem with the heart, gastrointestinal tract, or lungs
- Lumbar herniated disc – discomfort in the lower back; pain that travels into the lower body; pain in one or both legs; weakness or tingling in the lower extremities; diminishes reflexes and muscle spasms; in some rare cases a loss of bowel or bladder control, which can indicate cauda equina syndrome, a condition that requires immediate medical attention
The symptoms of a herniated disc can vary widely depending on both the location and severity of the damaged disc and many of the symptoms commonly associated with this condition can also be explained by the presence of additional spinal degradation, including facet disease, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis. In order to effectively manage the symptoms of a herniated disc, the exact cause, location, and severity of the condition have to be identified by a medical professional. If you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc and you are considering surgery after exhausting conservative treatments, contact BEST Health System today.