How can I tell if a herniated disc is causing my pain?
Most disc injuries occur in the neck and lower back. Herniated disc of the mid back occur much less often. Disc injuries often cause pain radiating into an extremity. The herniated disc of the neck (cervical spine) pinch nerves that radiate pain into the arms often into the hands and to the upper mid back region. Herniated disc of the lower back (lumbar spine) cause pain in the lower back and radiate into the leg often to the toes. Herniated disc in the lower back often cause leg pain without any lower back pain. Ninety percent of the time when you have radiating leg pain below the knee it is related to a herniated disc of the lumbar spine.
Three at home tests for lower back discs you can do to indicate if you have a herniated disc are:
Slump Test – Sit on a chair. Then slump your shoulder forward and let your lower back curve toward the back. Then raise one or both of your legs straight out in front of you. If you have radiating pain in the leg you probably have a herniated disc.
Leg Raise Test – Lay on the floor flat of your back and raise your both legs off the floor about 6 inches. If you have radiating pain into a leg or legs or you are unable to hold you legs up you probably have a herniated disc.
Leg Traction Test – While laying on your back have someone pull on your leg from the ankle and foot. If your pain lessens, traction would be a good intervention and treatment.
Two tests to help you understand if you have a herniated disc in the neck are:
Upper Limb Nerve Tension Test: While sitting raise your upper arm to horizontal and your forearm pointed straight up. Then tilt your wrist back. While your wrist is tilted backwards extend your arm straight and then push it backwards. If you have pain radiating into your arm with the Upper Nerve Tension Test you probably have a herniated disc in your neck.
Traction Tests – While sitting gently lift up on your head so to apply traction to the neck. If your pain diminishes spinal decompression would probably be a good treatment intervention.
However to be absolutely positive you have a disc protrusion diagnostic imaging is necessary. MRI of the neck or lower back is best because it not only giving detail of the bone but also the soft tissues of nerve and disc. CT scan also allow you to see a disc protrusion. CT scans are also best for detail of bone and not as good for soft tissue.
Ultimately, to know if you have a herniated disc consult a doctor who is experienced, knowledgeable, and deals with back related issues daily.
I have been getting this question a lot lately. I broke it down to some simple tests that may help you make a better decision as to what to do next!
Have a great week!