No pain, no gain. Whether you’re a weekend warrior or you follow a strict workout schedule, you’ve likely muttered this to yourself every time you overwork your body.
While it’s normal to experience pain after strenuous activity, if you have severe back pain, you shouldn’t pass it off as a natural result of exercise. You may have strained a muscle, but you could also have a disc rupture, also called a herniated disc.
Despite the pain usually associated with ruptured discs, some people don’t even know they have a problem. They have no pain!
Are you wondering if you have (or had) a ruptured spinal disc? While your body won’t speak to you in an audible voice, it will give you signs. Explore seven ways your body lets you know you have a disc problem.
1. Severe Low Back Pain
On the pain level scale, the number ten represents the most severe pain. If you can rate your pain at a level 10, or even worse, feel like it’s way off the scale, your body is trying to alert you to something serious.
Since strains and sprains of muscles, joints, and ligaments can all cause severe pain, how do you differentiate between a strained muscle and a ruptured disc?
More often than not, severe low back pain accompanied by sciatica indicates a disc rupture. The affected disc is part of the lumbar spine.
2. A Pain in the Neck
Have you evolved from being a pain in the neck to feeling pain in your neck? Your older brother may still tease you about it, but neck pain is not a joking matter.
Your neck is part of your spinal column. Beginning at the base of your skull, the first seven vertebrae make up the cervical spine.
A ruptured disc in the neck can cause neck pain, but it doesn’t stop there. Pain may also radiate down your arm. Many people experience shoulder pain as well.
If you’re looking for the first signs of a disc issue, heed the early warning of arm and neck pain.
3. Tingling or Numbness in Your Hands
Pain isn’t the only way your body alerts you to a possible problem with a disc in the spinal column. Tingling, numbness, and even weakness in your hands can indicate a disc rupture.
Healthy discs prevent the vertebrae of the spine from rubbing against each other.
When a disc ruptures, it moves out of place. If the disc compresses a spinal column nerve, the nerve sends a message to the brain. Discs located in the cervical spine impact the hands, and sometimes arms and shoulders.
4. Electric Shock Sensations
Have you ever received a shock from an electrical outlet or appliance? A ruptured disc can trigger irritation in the sciatic nerve.
If you feel something like an electric shock or cold on one side of your body, it’s a sign. Most people notice these sensations run from the trunk of the body to their foot.
Remember, sciatic nerve pain and a ruptured disc go together.
5. Do Your Legs Feel Weak?
Remember when you fell in love so hard, it made your knees weak? Weakness in your legs not caused by a new romance may be a nerve-related symptom of a ruptured disc.
The ruptured disc presses on the nerves in the lumbar spinal canal. The result is an unsettling feeling in the legs. It’s as if your legs aren’t able to support your weight.
Leg weakness paired with an inability to balance puts you at risk of falling. While you probably don’t need to rush to the emergency room when you experience weakness in your legs, you will want to schedule an appointment with your health care provider as soon as you can.
6. It Hurts When You Laugh
Who hasn’t laughed so hard they ended up rolling on the floor? Sometimes you laugh so hard it hurts.
Laughing, as well as coughing and sneezing, put pressure on your abdominal area. It doesn’t usually cause a problem other than a bit of temporary discomfort—unless you have a ruptured disc.
If the abdominal pressure moves to the back, it can result in pain. Don’t ignore the inconvenience of pain when you’re trying to have a good laugh. Let your doctor determine whether you’re experiencing pain due to a herniated disc.
7. When a Disc Rupture Causes Loss of Control
On a more serious note, sometimes, a ruptured spinal disc compresses the nerves responsible for bowel and bladder control. Back pain that comes on suddenly accompanied by difficulty urinating or, on the other end of the spectrum, loss of bladder control needs immediate medical attention.
A ruptured herniated disc can cause cauda equina syndrome.
The disc compresses the nerve roots at the bottom of the spinal cord. These nerves control the legs and the bowel, and the bladder. If the compression isn’t relieved soon enough, you could end up with irreversible damage.
Loss of bowel and bladder control constitutes a medical emergency. You may need surgery to relieve the pressure.
Wondering if You Have a Disc Rupture?
Back pain is a common complaint. While not a common as general back pain, a disc rupture isn’t anything to take lightly.
Get to know your body and how it reacts to muscle stress and strain. When you notice any of the signs we’ve talked about here, it’s best not to put off getting a diagnosis.
The team at Elite Pain and Spine Institute specializes in ruptured disc treatment. Book an appointment today and get back on the road to pain-free living and good spinal health.