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You open the front door, a bag of groceries in your hands, when suddenly a stinging pain shoots through your spine. The crumpled brown bag hits the floor; your oranges roll away. You find yourself frozen in place, and your spine screams out in pain.

You may be suffering from a herniated disc. But back pain isn’t always the most obvious symptom of a herniated disc, as arm pain, leg pain, and hand numbness can all be possible symptoms.

Suppose you are dealing with sudden pain or numbness and can’t figure out what’s wrong. 

In that case, it might be a good idea to reach out to an orthopedic surgeon to see if you are suffering from a herniated disc. These five unexpected symptoms show how a herniated disc affects different people in different ways.

What is a Herniated Disc?

The bones that form the spine – also known as vertebrae – are cushioned by discs. These discs act as shock absorbers for the spine. 

A herniated disc occurs when a fragment of the disc nucleus – a gel-like substance that cushions the bone – is pushed out of the disc’s outer layer and into the spinal canal through a tear or rupture.

This displacement causes the disc to press on spinal nerves, which can cause intense pain. However, the signs of a herniated disc can also vary from person to person, with men being twice as likely to experience a herniated disc than women. 

Surprisingly, the most common symptoms of a herniated disc tend to be a pain in the arm or leg. 

If the herniated disc is in the lower back, the pain is most intense in the buttocks, thigh, and calf. 

Shoulder and arm pain are often felt when the herniated disc is in the neck.  

In addition to feeling pain in the arm or leg, other signs of a herniated disc are often overlooked because they might not be outright painful.

Is My Mis-Diagnosis Potentially a Herniated Disc?


A misdiagnosed herniated disc is one of the most common reasons patients endure chronic neck or back pain. 

Herniated discs are often misdiagnosed as piriformis syndrome, a muscular disorder in the buttocks, mild sciatica, degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis.

How Long Does It Take for a Herniated Disc Injury to Cause Pain?

In some cases, people with herniated discs feel zero pain because the disc doesn’t press on any nerves. 

But for those who feel pain, the timing and pain level will vary depending on how much the disc is pressing on the nerve. 

Symptoms usually reduce or resolve after several weeks. Surgery is an option for more persistent cases of pain.

How Is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

Typically, doctors perform a physical exam to find the source of the pain. And, based on that visit, they may want further testing to rule out any other issues. 

The most common imaging for this condition is an MRI. MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, produces 3-D images of body structures using powerful magnets and computer technology. 

MRI will show the spinal cord, nerve roots, and surrounding areas and allow the doctor to see any abnormalities in the spine.

At CORE Orthopedics, we use an Open MRI machine. An Open MRI machine is open on all sides and is configured with magnets above and below the patient. This allows for a far less claustrophobic experience than a traditional MRI.

The primary benefit is patient comfort during the procedure. 

Using MAGNETOM Espree’s revolutionary technology, we can give our patients the comfort and space of an open MRI with the imaging power of a traditional closed unit.

5 Unexpected Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, please reach out to your doctor immediately. There is a chance you’re dealing with a herniated disc, and treatment might be necessary.

1. A sensation on one side of the body similar to an electric shock

When the sciatic nerve is irritated, you might feel an aching pain or even a cold sensation along one side of your body from the torso to the foot.

The pain is often described as feeling like an electric shock on either the left or right side. 

2. Foot pain

Herniated discs in the lower back can press on the sciatic nerve. This pain shoots through the leg down to the foot, where you may feel pain or even lose feeling in your toes.

3. Leg weakness

Severe spinal cord compression can affect your legs, causing weakness or imbalance. 

If you’re a runner, never confuse these potential warning signs with symptoms of a traditional runner’s injury as leg weakness potentially can be a more serious condition.

4. Numb hands

Pain isn’t the only symptom of a herniated disc. Affected nerves in the spine send messages to your brain resulting in numbness and tingling.

Hand numbness is a sign that your cervical spine (located in your neck) is the source of the disc rupture.

5. Pain when laughing, coughing, or sneezing

We’ve all laughed so hard it hurts but this may be more serious to watch out for if you have a herniated disc. 

A laugh, cough, or sneeze puts pressure on the abdomen. This pressure can reverberate to your back if you have a herniated disc causing sharp pain.

What are my treatment options?

Proper treatment for a herniated disc depends on your age and overall health to determine the most effective treatment options. The first step is to speak with your care provider and make a plan.

Most often, initial treatment is nonsurgical. Doctors may advise patients to avoid strenuous activities for a few weeks. This helps to decrease inflammation in the spinal nerve. 

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication is frequently prescribed if the pain is only mild to moderate. Doctors may also provide Epidural Steroid Injections to provide short-term pain relief.

Physical therapy such as pelvic traction, gentle massage, ice therapy, heat therapy, and stretching exercises are often recommended. 

Doctors may recommend surgery if conservative treatments do not reduce or end the herniated disc pain. 

Back Pain? Suffering from Any of these Symptoms? Call CORE Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Today.

No one deserves to suffer from pain from an undiagnosed herniated disc. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are in pain, don’t hesitate to contact CORE Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at (847) 690-1776.

And, the best part is, you do not need a referral to make an appointment at CORE.

Location Information

Elk Grove Village

555 Biesterfield Road

Elk Grove Village, Illinois 60007

(847) 690-1776  


Hoffman Estates

2380 Lakewood Blvd.

Hoffman Estates, Illinois 60192

(847) 690-1776  

Core Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Surgical Affiliations

Physician and Orthopedic Surgeon in Geneva
Geneva Surgical Suites

119 Elizabeth Ln., Genoa City, WI 53128

Phone: 262-295-1213

Alexian Brothers Medical Center

800 Biesterfield Rd.

Elk Grove Village, IL 60007

Phone: 847-437-5500


St. Alexius Medical Center

1555 Barrington Rd.

Hoffman Estates, IL 60169

Phone: 847-843-2000


Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital

450 West Highway 22

Barrington, IL 60010

Phone: 847-381-0123


Call (847) 979-9214 today for a Consultation