Neck and back pain aren’t the only symptoms of a herniated disc. In fact, for many patients, symptoms first present in the extremities. Because of this, it’s important to know the relationship between a herniated disc and extremity nerve function. Let’s jump right in:
The intervertebral discs of the spine are made up of an outer ring of cartilage and an inner gel-like substance.
Illustration 1- Intervertebral disc lie between adjacent vertebrae
The discs help with support and movement by acting as “shock absorbers”. A herniated, or ruptured, disc results when the nucleus protrudes through the outer ring of cartilage—placing pressure on the spinal cord/nerves.
Illustration 2- A herniated disc pinches the nerve
Because the spinal nerves branch out to innervate the extremities, patients can experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms.
Extremity Related Symptoms of a Herniated Lumbar Disc
The lumbar vertebrae are those found in the lower back. When a lumbar disc herniates, the first symptom is usually a sharp, shooting pain that starts in the buttocks and runs down the back of the leg. Commonly known as sciatica, this type of pain can be aggravating, even debilitating. Other associated symptoms include tingling, numbness, and weakness.
Illustration 3- The sciatic nerve runs down the lower back, buttocks, and back of the leg. A herniated lumbar disc can pinch the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica.
Extremity Related Symptoms of a Herniated Cervical Disc
The cervical, or neck, vertebral discs herniate less often than those in the lumbar region. However, symptoms are not less severe. A herniated cervical disc can cause pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the neck, shoulder, arm, and/or hand. Because these body parts are used throughout daily activities, a herniated cervical disc can decrease quality of life and ability to function.
If you’re can relate to the information in this post or are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, please feel free to contact our offices in Duxbury or Sandwich, MA to arrange an appointment with one of our orthopedic spine specialists. A detailed medical history, physical examination, and medical imaging studies will be used to determine if your symptoms are due to a herniated disc, or other lower back/nerve related problem. Once a diagnosis has been made, effective treatment options will be decided upon and offered. You’ll be well on your way to a full recovery.
The Spine Team at Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates consists of Physical Therapists, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialists and Board Certified Orthopedic Spine Surgeons. Our goal is to design a treatment plan customized to your lifestyle and goals and we use the latest advancements in both non-surgical and Minimally Invasive spine care. We have offices located in both Duxbury and Sandwich, MA. Contact us today to schedule a consult!