Spotting the Warning Signs of a Herniated Disc

By The Spine Center

Your spine is a complex set of bones. Each vertebrae is cushioned by a disc, which kind of resembles a jelly donut: a soft, pillowy interior encased by a tougher coating. These discs separate your vertebrae and protect them by absorbing the shock from activities like walking, running, and lifting. 

A herniated disc occurs when the gel-like inner portion of the disc protrudes from the hard coating. 

Also called a “slipped” disc, a herniated disc can lead to serious complications down the line if left untreated. Like most conditions, herniated discs are best treated when they’re caught early, and to that end, the spine health experts at The Spine Center at the Bone and Joint Clinic of Baton Rouge share the top warning signs of a herniated disc. 

Herniated disc symptoms

It can be tough to tell if you have a herniated disc because the symptoms can be mild. Even when symptoms are severe, they could indicate a wide range of spinal or nerve conditions. 

That said, look out for these warning signs of a herniated disc: 

  • Pain and numbness on one side of your body
  • Pain that shoots down your leg (usually just one)
  • Pain while walking
  • Pain that worsens after sitting
  • Pain that worsens after sleeping
  • Tingling in your hips and legs
  • Weakness in your legs

You should see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they’re persistent. 

Causes of herniated discs

In addition to knowing the symptoms of a herniated disc, understanding how what causes them can help you pinpoint whether or not you may have this condition. The most common cause of herniated discs is general age-related wear and tear. Other causes include lifting heavy objects, sudden twisting or turning of the spine, and having a physically demanding job or lifestyle

Generally, herniated discs happen with age because the discs in your spine start to shrink as they lose their protective water content. Overweight individuals also have a higher risk of herniated discs because their spines must support extra weight. 

Herniated disc treatments

If it turns out that you do have a herniated disc — which one of our spine health experts will diagnose after a thorough exam and consultation — you should begin treatment right away. For many patients, conservative treatments relieve pain in just a few days to a couple weeks. 

Conservative treatments might include:

  • Avoiding painful or uncomfortable positions
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications
  • Stopping any exercises that aggravate the disc (like heavy weightlifting)
  • Implementing a gentle exercise regimen 

If your pain doesn’t improve with those measures, your spine doctor might recommend more intensive treatments, such as cortisone injections, physical therapy, or surgery.

To learn more about herniated disc treatment and surgeries, visit our herniated disc FAQ page. If you think you may have a herniated disc, call one of our offices in Baton Rouge, Walker, or Prairieville, Louisiana, right away (choose the location closest to you). Or you can request an appointment online.