Slipped Disc Symptoms
The symptoms of a slipped disc vary depending on the site of the disc weakness and whether the prolapse/herniation interferes with any pain sensitive structure. A slipped disc most commonly occurs right at the base of the spine. This can give absolutely no pain at all or can give varying degrees of leg and low back pain. Although quite rare, a complete herniation can cause paralysis of the foot and leg and loss of control of the bladder and bowel.
The most common symptom of a slipped disc is sciatica if in the low back or radiating pain into the arm, if in the neck. Low back pain or neck pain may also be present but not in all cases. Sometimes the pain can start in the back or neck then seem to disappear only to be replaced with leg or arm pain. Often the irritated nerve will cause crooking and a postural change; over to the side or forward in the neck or back, along with powerful painful muscle guarding, making it impossible to stand straight.
Usually larger prolapses and extrusions are more likely to give pins & needles, numbness and weakness in the arm or leg. Although very rare, a complete herniation may cause paralysis of the foot and leg and loss of control of the bladder and bowel.
However, the symptoms are not as straightforward as it may seem, as there can be huge variability in symptoms. Interestingly studies have shown that between 52-65% of patients with no pain at all have been shown to have some sort of damage to their discs. So, it is possible that a slipped disc can give absolutely no symptoms at all or can give varying degrees of leg and low back pain ranging from intermittent ‘grumbly’ pain to absolute agony with or without pins & needles, numbness and weakness in the arm or leg.
In some cases, an MRI scan will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and to identify the type of disc herniation. The Sussex Back Pain Clinic specialises in these sorts of problems and we have an agreement with a local MRI provider so we can arrange this for you quickly and at a preferential rate if required.