San Francisco Chiropractor and Herniated Disc Doctor comments:
So, how do you know if you have a disc herniation in the neck, or a disc herniation in the low back? You can have severe back pain or severe neck pain and it still does not mean you have a herniated disc. In fact, you can present with some of the classic signs and symptoms of a herniated disc, such as sciatica, radiculopathy, weakness of grip, or numbness and tingling in the extremities, and the source can be something other than spinal disc herniation.
The only way to know for sure if you have a lumbar or cervical disc herniation is to get an MRI. Sure, when you have the signs and symptoms of a disc herniation it increases the likelihood that you have them...but it does not mean that we should rush out and order an (expensive) MRI on the spot. In fact, it is usually prudent to wait a little while and try some conservative treatment such as chiropractic care or physical therapy first and see what happens.
I specialize in the treatment of chronic, severe, back and neck pain at my San Francisco Financial District Chiropractic Center. We incorporate traditional chiropractic care and spinal decompression therapy (with the DRX9000 ) into our herniated disc protocols. There is an MRI center right across the street from my clinic which makes it very convenient for the patients who I feel should have advanced diagnostic imaging. I just don't jump the gun and send out for an MRI unless I think it is medically necessary.
Heck, even if there are herniated lumbar discs in the spine, or herniated cervical discs, it still does not mean the patient needs surgery. In fact, often times herniated discs have no symptoms at all and are discovered through x-rays or MRI for unrelated conditions. Here is an excellent article I found on the very informative www.spineuniverse.com website. It explains this stuff really well. The title of the article is: Do You Have A Herniated Disc? I recommend you read it.
I guess the moral of the story is to make sure you have a doctor that routinely works with herniated disc patients and is conservative in nature.