BPS 5: What are the Common Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disk is a painful condition that affects the cervical spine, lumbar spine, and the thoracic spine. Each location of the herniated disk pain results in different symptoms. In this article, you will learn about some of the commons symptoms associated with a herniated disc at each location.

1. Symptoms of a Herniated Disc in the Cervical Spine

A herniated disc occurs less commonly in the cervical spine (neck). This is because there is generally less disc material in the area. Symptoms of a herniated disk differ according to the location of the pain at the cervical segment.

  • At Cervical segment C4-C5 — A herniated disc at this level results in C5 nerve root impingement. Patients tend to feel general weakness in the deltoid muscle of the upper arm and shoulder pain. However, they do not feel any tingling or numbness.
  • At Cervical segment C5-C6 — A herniated disc at this level results in C6 nerve root impingement. This is the most common area of the cervical herniated disc. It can result in pain in the wrist extensor muscles and weakness in the biceps. Individuals also feel tingling and numbness sensation that seems to radiate down to the thumb area of the hand.
  • At Cervical segment C6-C7 — A herniated disc at this level leads to C7 nerve root impingement. It results in a weakness in the triceps muscles and pain in the extensor muscles. Individuals feel tingling and numbness that seem to radiate down to the middle finger.
  • At Cervical segment C7-T1 — A herniated level at this level results in root impingement of the C8 nerve. It leads to a weakness when gripping objects with hand as well as the feeling of pain, tingling and numbness that seem to radiate from the arm to the little finger.

2. Symptoms of a Herniated Disc in the Thoracic Spine

A herniated disc in the thoracic spine (upper back) rarely produce pain. The pain is generally felt in the chest and upper back area.

3. Symptoms of a Herniated Disc in the Lumbar Spine

A herniated disc in the lumbar spine (lower back) is also known as sciatica or leg pain. Around 90 percent of the herniated discs occur at the L5 and S1 nerve root with the pain radiating to the sciatic nerve in the leg.

  • At Lumbar segment L4-L5 — A herniated disc at this area results in L5 nerve impingement. It results in sciatic pain and a weakness when raising the big toe and ankle. Individuals feel numbness and pain on top of the foot.
  • At Lumbar segment L5-S1 — A herniated disc at this area results in the sacral segment (S1) nerve impingement. It leads to leg pain in addition to a weakness when standing on toes. Numbness and tingling sensation tend to radiate down to the sole of the feet.

Diagnosis of a herniated disc is based on the evaluation of symptoms as well as clinical diagnosis. Accurate clinical diagnosis requires an evaluation of medical history and a physical exam from a spine care professional.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.