Signs and Symptoms You May Have a Herniated Disc, and When to Get Help

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  • Photo Credit: Inge Poelman via Unsplash

Your spine is made of a series of vertebrae that stretch from your tailbone to your skull. Between these vertebrae, soft cushions exist to help allow these bones to bend and move, known as discs. If a disc suddenly experiences a tear or leakage, this is known as a herniated disc.

Most herniated discs can heal independently, while others may require some home care or professional help with the recovery process, such as with a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are trained in helping with herniated discs and are readily available to find online. It’s as easy as searching for “physiotherapy in Vancouver near me” to find your nearest clinic.

However, it can be tricky to tell if you have a herniated disc, as it often does not come with noticeable symptoms, While at other times, a herniated disc may confusingly create pain in your arms or legs, leading you to believe there is an issue with those parts of your body. The following are some symptoms of a herniated disc and ways you can help alleviate the condition.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

While most herniated discs occur in the lower back region, your neck can also herniate as it is connected to your spine. How you react to a herniated disc can range, including the following symptoms:


Pain is the most obvious sign you may have a herniated disc. If the herniated disc is located in your neck, you may notice a pain in your shoulders and arms that intensifies in a stabbing or burning way when forcibly moving your neck, such as coughing or sneezing. If your herniation is in your lower back, you may additionally experience pain in your thighs, calf, buttocks, or feet.


As the discs are connected to your nerves, the muscles they interact with may feel weakened when suffering from a herniated disc. For example, a herniation in the neck may lead to a weakened grip, leading to difficulty lifting or gripping things in their hands. Meanwhile, a deviation in the lower back may cause weakness in the legs, causing a person to stumble when walking.


In the same way that your nerves affected by a herniated disc can transmit pain to your muscles, they can also cause radiating numbness throughout parts of your body. This can be particularly concerning to a person when the numbness occurs in their arm, as they may mistakenly believe it is a potential symptom of a heart issue.

Helping a Herniated Disc at Home

Most herniated discs repair themselves on their own. You can help speed this process along by:

  • Taking extra care and resting for 1-3 days, avoiding laying in place for too long to avoid stiffness
  • Practicing safe exercises to help stretch the area in a safe way
  • Taking ibuprofen or other over-the-counter painkillers.
  • Applying both ice and heat in alternation in the affected area.

When to see a Specialist

You should seek professional care for a herniated disc if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased pain that begins to interfere with your day-to-day life
  • Symptoms are not getting better after a few weeks
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Mobility issues begin to occur
  • Intense numbness or tingling in other areas of your body

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