Do I Have a Herniated Disk? WebMD

Back pain can sneak up on you when you least expect it. One minute you're sitting comfortably in front of the TV, and the next you try to stand up, and -- ouch! -- a sharp pain radiates through your lower back.

What’s causing it? Could you have a slipped or herniated disk? Chances are you might.

Your spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae.  Some of the vertebrae are cushioned by soft disks made of a jellylike substance.These disks are what allow you to move your spine around and bend over.

But if a disk between two vertebrae starts slipping out of place, it can irritate the surrounding nerves and cause extreme pain. The condition is called a slipped, ruptured, or herniated disk.

Signs of a Herniated Disk

So how do you know if you have a herniated disk and not just regular old back pain?

One sign may be where the pain is located. Although they can occur in any part of your spine, herniated disks are most common in the lower part of your backbone (the lumbar spine), just above your hips. And the pain may spread from your back to your buttocks, thighs, even to your calves.

Discomfort from a herniated disk usually worsens when you're being active and lessens when you're resting. Even coughing, sneezing, and sitting can aggravate your symptoms because they put pressure on the pinched nerves.

Age also plays a factor. As you get older, your disks tend to break down and lose their cushioning.


The best way to tell if you have a herniated disk is to see your doctor. He will likely do a physical exam to find the source of your pain. This usually is the only test you’ll need to confirm a diagnosis. But if your doctor wants to rule out other sources of your pain, or pinpoint specific nerves that are aggravated, he may do further testing, including:

X-rays. While a standard X-ray can't show if you have a herniated disk, it can show your doctor the outline of your spine and rule out whether your pain is caused by something else, such as a fracture or tumor.


← All posts