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How Does a Herniated Lumbar Disc Feel?


Herniated disc pain often subsides or goes away after 1–2 months for many individuals. While this is encouraging news, it is still important to know what symptoms to pay attention to so you can determine when to seek treatment. Everyone’s experience with a herniated disc in the lower back area is different. However, as this article explains, there are some common types of discomfort often associated with lumbar spinal disc issues.

No Pain at All

Herniated discs are usually only painful if a nerve root close to the protruding material is being irritated or compressed. If there is no nerve compression from the disc, you may not feel any noticeable discomfort. This could change later if disc material shifts or if the disc itself shifts.

Radiating Pain in the Lower Back

It is possible to only feel
lower back pain with a herniated disc, but it is more likely to be coupled with radiating pain. This refers to discomfort extending along the nerve's pathway, which often results in numbness and tingling sensations extending to one or more of the following areas:

• Upper thighs and buttocks
• One leg, since single-leg pain is more common with lumbar disc herniation
• Lower legs or around the knees
• Feet, which is not common but still possible

Weakness Primarily on One Side

When nerves are affected by a herniated disc in the lower back, some degree of general weakness may also be experienced. As is the case with legs, disc-related muscle or soft tissue weakness is often felt on only one side of the body.

Symptoms that Come and Go

Pain from a herniated lumbar spine disc is more likely to be intermittent than constant. This is often felt as discomfort that comes and goes throughout the day as the body’s natural movements and motions shift the disc material. It is also common to feel intermittent discomfort associated with certain actions, such as getting up after sitting for an extended time. You may also feel pain that comes and goes with actions such as:

• Getting up after sleeping in a position that compresses the affected disc
• Sneezing, coughing, or similar forceful actions
• Reaching, stretching, or bending

Managing the Symptoms You Feel

More often than not,
herniated disc discomfort is manageable. Pain management is often accomplished with various physical therapy routines and medication to ease inflammation. You may also notice a gradual reduction in disc-related discomfort if you make certain lifestyle adjustments (e.g., eating more inflammation-fighting foods and improving your posture). 

Some types of discomfort related to a lower back disc herniation can require immediate medical attention. Symptoms falling into this category include:

• Severe lower back pain—often with discomfort extending to nearby areas
• Extreme radiating nerve pain
• Bowel and bladder issues
• Discomfort severely affecting the ability to walk, sleep, sit, or lie down

If you have a herniated disc that is not responding to conservative treatment, a discectomy may be discussed and potentially recommended. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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