Chronic Back Pain: Disc Bulges and Disc Disorders Symptoms
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Chronic Back Pain: Disc Bulges and Disc Disorders Symptoms

Disc disorders can lead to shooting pain, numbness, and tingling
    Chronic back pain plagues millions of people each year. Knowing the cause of your back pain can help you to better cope with the pain and to help prevent further injury. Disc disorders can cause pain, numbness, and paresthesias (tingling sensations). The majority of disc bulges, protrusions, and extrusions occur in a postero-lateral direction. This means that the disc has migrated backwards and to one side. When this occurs it is possible for the disc to impinge upon a spinal nerve, leading to pain on one side of the back.

     In addition to local pain the impinged nerve can lead to distal pain, numbness and paresthesias in a dermatomal pattern. A dermatome is an area of skin that is innervated by a single nerve root in the spine. For example, the S1 nerve root innervates the outside of the foot and the calf. This means that if your S1 nerve root is impinged by a slipped disc you may experience pain, numbness, or tingling on the outside of your foot and the calf of only one leg. The pain associated with nerve impingements is often described as a shooting pain.

     Very severe disc herniations and nerve impingements may also lead to muscle weakness in a myotomal pattern. A myotome is simply the collection of muscles that receive information from a single nerve root. For example, the L3 nerve root innervates your quadriceps muscles. If you have a very severe impingement of the L3 nerve root you may experience weakness in the quadriceps muscles and experience difficulty in straightening your knee on one leg only.

     In addition to knowing the location of any pain or weakness you experience, it is important to pay careful attention when you experience these symptoms. Most people with disc disorders experience pain while sitting for long periods of time. This pain can often be “walked off”. While pain may be experienced when you first begin walking, it should lessen as you continue to walk. Flexion exercises are also known to increase the pain and weakness associated with disc disorders. Flexion exercises are considered to be anything that requires you to bend at the waist, or anything that brings your thigh up towards your head. A straight leg raise, which consists of lying flat on your back and raising one leg as high as possible while keeping the knee straight, will often cause pain. Sit-ups are also a very painful exercise for persons with disc disorders.

     If you experience chronic back pain and suspect that you may suffer from a disc disorder, talk to your doctor. He will be able to perform special tests to determine the origin of your pain. Once you know where the pain is coming from, you and your doctor will work together to manage the pain.

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