San Francisco Chiropractor and Herniated Disc Doctor Comments:
How do you know if you have a herniated disc in the low back? Well, you don't, unless you have the right tests done. Sure, you may have a lot of pain in your low back...it may be shooting down your leg...but you still may not have a disc herniation.
Here's another thing...you may have a lumbar disc herniation and have no symptoms at all. In fact, some people live and die with disc herniations and never even knew they had them.
But...for the purpose of this article...we will be concerned about low back pain patients that DO have signs and symptoms of herniated lumbar discs, and want to know if they have one. Here are the most common signs and symptoms:
Low Back Pain (can be severe)
Sciatica (leg pain)
Antalgia (listing to one side from muscle spasms)
Numbness & Tingling in the lower extremities
Abnormal Gait (can be painful to walk)
Hot or Cold sensations on the skin of lower extremities
Weakness of the Lower Extremities (leg, feet, or toes)
Loss of bladder or bowel function (this is a medical emergency)
Loss of balance
There are more...but I think I covered most of them. And these are what we call subjective complaints...things that you feel and that are happening to you.
There are orthopedic tests that your doctor will do to help determine if you have a herniated disc. If these tests are positive (objective findings) she may order an x-ray or an MRI. Really, it just depends on the severity of your condition and how many subjective and objective findings point to a herniated lumbar disc. An MRI is considered the gold standard for diagnosing a disc herniation.