Lower back pain and symptoms caused by a herniated disc are quite common
in adults. The cushion type tissue between the bones in your spine is
called intervertebral discs. These discs are composed of a soft gel-like
center and a tough outer lining and create a between the bones in the
spine that allows them to move. A herniated disc occurs when the lining
surrounding the disc tears and the soft center is pushed through the opening.
Herniated discs may be caused by numerous things. The most common of which
is the simple process of aging. As we get older, the discs in our spines
can lose their flexibility and elasticity while the ligaments surrounding
the discs can become brittle and are more easily damaged or torn. Because
this can put pressure on spinal nerves (radiculopathy) or on the spinal cord (
myelopathy), it can cause painful symptoms.
- Acute pain in the buttocks, thigh and leg below the knee, possibly into the foot.
- Pain that radiates or shoots into the leg when you cough or sneeze
- Numbness or tingling in the leg
- Weakness in the lower extremities if the herniation is pinching a nerve
Often a herniated disc can be diagnosed during a physical examination.
By evaluating sensation, muscle strength, and reflexes, your doctor can
often diagnosis a herniated disc.
As it is not possible to detect a herniated disc with an X-ray alone, an
MRI is usually ordered to verify the diagnosis of a herniated disc especially
if the doctor suspects another condition or needs to determine which nerves
are affected. CT Scans may also be used to rule out other conditions.
A Myelogram may be used in some cases, where a dye is injected into the
spinal fluid, and then an X-ray is taken. This procedure can show pressure
on your spinal cord or nerves due to multiple herniated discs. It can
also assist in ruling out spinal cord tumors, abscesses and bony overgrowths.