What is a herniated disc?
A herniated disc is a condition that affects the back. It can cause pain, numbness, or tingling down one or both legs. The discs that sit between the vertebrae have a tough outer shell and jelly-like center. The outer shell of the discs can sometimes break open, spilling the jelly material inside. This is what doctors call a herniated disc. Herniated discs can cause symptoms, because the jelly material that spills out of them can irritate nearby nerves. Plus, the disc itself can bulge and press on nerves.
What are the symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back?
Herniated discs do not always cause symptoms. When they do, the most common symptom is tingling, pain, or numbness that spreads down one leg. These symptoms affect different parts of the leg, depending on which disc in the lower back is herniated.
Will I need tests?
Imaging tests, such as an MRI or a CT scan, can show what the tissues inside the back look like. These tests can find a herniated disc if one is there. But doctors do not usually offer this test until a person has had symptoms for at least 4 to 6 weeks. In most cases, it does not make sense to order the test sooner, because the treatment for herniated disc during those first few weeks is the same no matter what an imaging test might show.