When patients ask me for advice on how to know if you have a spinal disc problem, there’s a story that comes to mind every time.

Not too long ago, a friend of mine was over to help me out with one of my weekend projects.

He had been out with his family for some celebration – I don’t remember exactly what for – and the first thing he did was go into the bathroom to change.

Not 30 seconds later as I was getting some things together in the next room, I heard what I can only describe as a “yelp” come from the bathroom.

I rushed over, knocked on the door, and asked him if he was ok, to which he replied “I think I threw my back out! I felt a sharp pain in my low back while I was putting on my shirt, and I don’t think I can move!”

As I walked him out of the bathroom and over to the couch to take a look, he told me he was sure he had a “slipped disc” or something serious – that he needed to go to the hospital right away.

As it turns out, he had only strained a muscle in his back, so while that project of mine had to be put on hold for a bit and he had to listen to a bite sized TED talk from me about how to know if you have a spinal disc problem, he was going to be fine.

Not only do a great deal many people think this is how a herniated disc would present, but they also think that a disc herniation automatically means they’re going to need some sort of surgical intervention.

Bottom Line:

Now don’t get me wrong.

If you have a spinal disc problem rather than a back sprain or strain, that does not mean you won’t experience some level of chronic pain or discomfort.

Every movement can seem to hurt, and because of the chronic nature of that pain, it can feel like you’ll never be back to your old self – and often times, you may not even know what happened!

Pain is the body’s way of signaling you to “pay attention inside now” — it’s a warning sign from your body.

Ultimately, it’s your body’s way of letting you know it’s been pushed past its limits.

And when it comes to back muscle sprains and strains and disc injuries alike, with the proper care and a little time, you can help the body heal more often than not without invasive measures.

So, the big question I want to cover here is how to know if you have a spinal disc problem.

Let’s dive in.

Why it Matters:

All disc injuries are not the same, and while there are cases where you can experience a sudden onset of pain, the way you experience that pain might not be what you expect.

As a chiropractor with over 20 years of clinical experience, the most common type of spinal disc problem we see is indeed disc herniations.

These injuries most commonly occur in individuals between 45-65 years of age whose discs have naturally become more dehydrated and stiff.

When someone is diagnosed with a herniated or slipped disc, it means that one of their disc’s inner layers has pushed through its tough outer layer.

On that same note, when someone is diagnosed with a bulging disc, it means that that inner layer is protruding and likely very near to penetrating that outer layer.

If you’re wondering how to know if you have a spinal disc problem, it helps to know that the pain most commonly presents in two ways:

  • If the disc bulges far enough to press on a spinal nerve, you may notice pain that travels down your arms or legs.
  • If the inside of your disc pushes through the outer layer, it could also cause severe inflammation resulting in pain.

How To Know if You Have a Spinal Disc Problem

Do you have a muscle sprain or strain in your back?

Or do you indeed have a disc issue?

The best way to know for sure is to, of course, make an appointment with us for a timely evaluation.

Our team in Walkley Heights Adelaide uses in non-invasive, natural spinal disc treatment.

If for some reason you can’t see us right away – perhaps it’s late at night, you’re traveling, or there’s some other reason – here are some key indicators often associated with either sprains and strains or disc injuries.

  • As is the case in the story I shared earlier, you’re most likely to experience a sprain or strain while or immediately after completing everyday tasks and movements. The pain can be intense and is often localized to the area of the back that was affected.
  • Disc injuries on the other hand might not be attributable to a specific event, and the associated pain or discomfort (numbness, tingling, or weakness) often tends to be referred to and felt in the arms or legs on one side of the body (though some pain may be felt in the back).

Now, we should note as we discuss how to know if you have a spinal disc problem here that there are occasions where disc herniations are asymptomatic, which is why we recommend keeping up on your adjustments even when you’re not in pain.

Next Steps:

Regardless of the type of back injury you experience, the good news is that your spine is incredibly resilient and very capable of healing without the need for invasive procedures, injections, and surgeries.

Research has indicated time and again that movement-based care like the spinal adjustments and spinal rehab we provide in-house can be incredibly effective at helping you heal from disc injuries.

And, well, we’ve all been there!

You don’t need to spend any more time Googling for an answer to the question of how to know if you have a spinal disc problem because you have us.

Just like our team is here for each other when we suffer a back injury, we’re here for you.

If you’ve been living with back pain or some pains and discomfort in an arm or leg that you just can’t seem to remedy, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and let us know.

We provide non-invasive spinal disc treatment in Walkley Heights, Adelaide, and we’ll work with you to figure out what is at the root of that pain and to put together a plan to help you get out of pain and back to doing what you love, naturally.

Science Sources:

Bulging Disk vs. Herniated Disk: What’s the Difference? Mayo Clinic. 2022.

Exercise for Sciatica from a Herniated Disc. Spine-Health. 2021.