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What are the Most Common Ruptured Disc Symptoms?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated May 17, 2024
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Herniated, slipped, or ruptured disc symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people may complain of a slight tingling sensation or a dull ache. Other people may have pain that is so severe that they cannot move. Typically, pain, tingling, or numbness will only affect one side of the person’s body as well.

In order to understand the ruptured disc symptoms, it is beneficial to understand the underlying condition. The vertebrae of the spine are cushioned or separated by discs that have a hard outer shell that surrounds a soft, jelly-like substance inside the disc. The discs work to absorb shock and keep the spine supple. They can bulge, tear, or rupture and put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves along the back. The numbness or pain is the result of the pressure that is placed on the nerves.

If the disc is ruptured in the lower back, many people will experience sharp pains in one leg, buttock, or hip. They may have numbness in a different area, but the pain will only be on one side of the body. In addition, the affected side of the body may feel weaker.

If the disc is ruptured near the neck, the ruptured disc symptoms likely will be different. For example, the person may experience pain when she moves her neck. There may also be sharp pains near a shoulder blade. With a ruptured cervical disc, the pain may radiate down the arm and into the fingers.

One of the main ruptured disc symptoms is that the pain typically begins slowly. After certain activities, such as sitting, standing, sneezing, laughing, coughing, and bending, it may progressively worsen. Sometimes a person affected by a ruptured disc may go weeks without experiencing pain. Other times, the pain is a daily occurrence.

There are other ruptured disc symptoms with varying degrees of numbness and pain. For example, some people experience tingling around their genital area or their anus. Other people complain of sciatica, or pain that radiates through the buttocks, down the leg, to the knee. Occasionally, people will experience problems controlling their bladders or their bowel movements as well.

Since the ruptured disc symptoms vary widely, it is important to consult a doctor if any changes occur, even after the condition has been diagnosed. Some symptoms may be surprising and only a doctor can tell if there is a secondary condition causing pain, numbness or tingling. If the ruptured disc is not pressing against a nerve, there may only be minimal or no pain. Once it begins to press on a nerve, pain should be expected.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
Discussion Comments
By ysmina — On Jan 31, 2014

@ddljohn-- I'm not a doctor but as far as I know, it's possible to have a ruptured disc without experiencing all of the symptoms or experiencing them very intensely. If you repetitive lower back pain, you ought to see a doctor.

I have a ruptured, bulging disc but the symptoms were not intense in the beginning. I just felt mild aching in my back once in a while. Over time though the symptoms worsened and now I have sharp back pains, as well as pain and numbness in one leg.

By ddljohn — On Jan 31, 2014

I've had lower back pain for a while as well. I've never experienced sciatica symptoms though. Does this mean that it can't be a ruptured disc?

By serenesurface — On Jan 30, 2014

I experienced ruptured disc symptoms on and off for several years but I ignored them. The pain would come on whenever I did something wrong for my spine, like carrying heavy things or sitting improperly. When it occurred, I would rest and take pain relievers. There were times when I couldn't walk easily but I never thought that it could be a ruptured disc.

Finally last month, I developed severe lower back pain. It was much worse than previous times. I finally decided to see a doctor about it. The doctor gave me a physical exam. He said that the signs point towards a hernia but an MRI is necessary to confirm. I had an MRI test done and the doctor confirmed that I have a ruptured disc at L4.

I wish I had taken my symptoms seriously before. My doctor said that the hernia is not minor but it's not severe enough to require a back disc surgery either. He also said that it's apparent that the hernia has been there for at least a few years. I feel so stupid for not seeing a doctor earlier.

Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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