Herniated Disc Symptoms

Symptoms of a herniated disc depend on where the affected disc is, how fit the individual is, and several other factors. Herniation most often occurs in the lower back (the lumbar spine) or the neck (the cervical spine).

Symptoms of a lumbar herniated disc:

  • Back pain or back spasms, especially if the pain worsens when coughing or sneezing
  • Pain that radiates down the leg (often called “sciatica” because the affected nerve is the large sciatic nerve)
  • Muscle weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
  • Decreased reflexes at the knee or ankle

Symptoms of a cervical herniated disc:

  • Pain between the shoulder blades, or that radiates down the arms
  • Muscle spasms or atrophy
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms, hands, or fingers
  • Tingling sensation in the arms or hands

If a herniated disc causes spinal cord compression, symptoms may be more severe:

  • Difficulty with balance or walking
  • Apparent clumsiness/dropping things
  • Difficulty with handwriting, picking up small objects, or other fine-motor tasks
  • Weakness or cramping in arms or legs
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction

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