Pinched Nerve vs. Disc Pain: What You Need to Know

Pinched nerves in the back and herniated discs in the spine are two of the most common back problems that people experience. It is for this reason that when experiencing back pain, people often wonder whether they have one of these injuries. And if so, which one is causing the problem. So how can one tell if they have a pinched nerve, or are experiencing disc pain from a herniated disc?

It is important for patients to understand that these two injuries typically occur at the same time, so it is not a question of one or the other. Most often, pinched nerves are due to a disc in the spine that has herniated and has pressed on the disc, placing pressure on it and causing pain.

Herniated Discs

When a disc in the spine becomes herniated the outer part of the disc tears, allowing the fluid inside the disc to leak out into the spinal canal and press against a nerve, thereby pinching it and causing pain. The most common cause of a disc becoming herniated is when it experiences stress from the two surrounding vertebrae.

While herniated discs may cause pain on their own due to the disc becoming agitated, if the disc does not affect any nearby nerves, there may be no pain at all. Because of that, herniated discs can sometimes go a long time without being treated because the patient has not experienced any symptoms.

Pinched Nerves

Nerves in the body send sensory signals to the brain and other areas of the body. When one of those nerves becomes compressed, or pinched, these signals of pain can travel into the arm or leg causing pain.

If these nerves are left damaged over an extended period without treatment, the nerve will eventually become unable to function, causing numbness and weakness in the area of the body it sends signals to.

It is for this reason that when individuals have a pinched nerve in their back or neck, they may eventually complain of numbness or pain in the head or hand.

Herniated discs and pinched nerves in the back can cause extreme pain. When they do, it is important that individuals visit their doctor. While some cases of herniated discs may not require treatment and most cases can be treated without surgery, that is not usually the case when there is pain associated with it. And in many cases, appropriate treatment can prevent the condition from becoming worse. Consider reaching out to a professional spine doctor today.