Herniated Disc


All of these names indicate that a portion of a vertebral disc’s gel-like center has leaked into the spinal canal through a tear or split in the disc’s outer wall. Herniated discs can occur anywhere in the spine, including the cervical discs found in the neck. However, they are most often found in the lower back because much of the body's weight, and movement stress, are places on lumbar vertebrae.

Additional Names

A herniated disc may be referred to by several other names, including:

  • Pinched Nerve
  • Prolapsed disc
  • Ruptured disc
  • Slipped disc
  • Varies depending on location and severity
  • Some herniated discs cause no symptoms
  • Can cause severe pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness
  • Herniated discs in the lower back often lead to pain in the buttocks, legs and feet
  • Herniated discs in the neck often lead to pain in the shoulders, arms and hands



A pain doctor can often diagnose a herniated disc by reviewing a patient's medical history and performing a physical examination. However, there are times when your doctor will need more information to confirm your condition or rule out other causes for your pain.

Possible Tests

Imagine Tests

  • X-rays
  • Computerized tomography (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Nerve Tests

  • Electromyograms (EMG)
  • Age-related weakening (disc degeneration)
  • Can occur gradually as normal wear and tear
  • Being overweight or having a sedentary lifestyle
  • Traumatic injury such as a car accident
  • Lifting a heavy object inappropriately
  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Physical therapy
  • Oral or injectable cortisone
  • Back or neck brace
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Selective nerve root blocks
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