What is a Herniated Disk and What Are the Symptoms?

Our spine consists of a series of bones called vertebrae. Separating these vertebrae are cushions filled with a jellylike substance. These cushions allow the spine to bend. When one of these disks starts to slip out of place, it causes a condition called a slipped, ruptured, or herniated disk.

Most herniated discs occur in your lower back (lumbar spine), although they can also occur in your neck (cervical spine). You can suffer a herniated disk and not experience any symptoms, but most people do. The most common symptoms associated with a herniated disk are:

  • Arm or leg pain – If your herniated disk is in your lower back, you’ll typically feel the most intense pain in your buttocks, thigh and calf. If your herniated disk is in your neck, the pain will typically be most intense in the shoulder and arm. This pain may be more intense when you cough, sneeze or move your spine into certain positions.
  • Numbness or tingling – People who have a herniated disk often experience numbness or tingling in the body part served by the affected nerves.
  • Weakness – Muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken. This may cause you to stumble, or impair your ability to lift or hold items.

While suffering a herniated disk is most often the result of a natural aging process called disk degeneration, it can sometimes be the result of a traumatic event or improperly lifting heavy objects.

Risk factors for developing a herniated disk include:

  • Excess body weight causes extra stress on the disks in your lower back.
  • People with physically demanding jobs have a greater risk of back problems.
  • Some people inherit a predisposition to developing a herniated disk.

Tips to avoid a herniated disk include exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, lifting heavy objects with your legs and not your back, and practicing good posture.

In many cases, the best treatment for a herniated disk is rest, but if your symptoms are persistent or worsening, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor who may prescribe medications or refer you for physical rehabilitation.

If you are experiencing symptoms associated with a herniated disk and would like to see a doctor at Flushing Hospital, please call 718-670-  5486 to make an appointment.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.