Injured workers with herniated disc symptoms often continue working for months and in some cases years after the original injury or diagnosis. Sometimes they work under a doctor’s light duty restrictions, but more often than not they simply self-limit to control their symptoms. Many cases of lumbar disc herniation result from degenerative changes in the spine. The changes that eventually lead to a disc herniation produce symptoms gradually. At first, complaints may only be dull pain centered in the low back, pain that comes and goes over a period of a few years. Doctors think this is mainly from small tears in the annulus. Larger cracks in the annulus may spread pain into the buttocks or lower limbs.
When the disc herniates completely through the annulus, it generally causes immediate symptoms, with sharp pain that starts in one hip and shoots down part or all of the leg. Commonly, patients no longer feel their usual back pain, only leg pain. This is likely because painful tension on the annulus releases when the nucleus pushes completely through.
Disc herniations produce inflammation when the nucleus comes in contact with the body’s blood supply. The inflammation can be a source of throbbing pain in the low back and may spread into one or both hips and buttocks.
A herniated disc can press against a spinal nerve, producing symptoms of nerve compression. Nerve pain follows known patterns in the lower limbs. It can be felt on the side of the upper thigh, in the calf, or even in the foot and toes.
Pressure on the nerve can also cause sensations of pins, needles, and numbness where the nerve travels down the lower limbs. If this happens, a person’s reflexes slow. The muscles controlled by the nerve weaken, and sensation in the skin where the nerve goes is impaired.
Rarely, symptoms involve changes in bowel and bladder function. A large disc herniation that pushes straight back into the spinal canal can put pressure on the nerves that go to the bowels and bladder.
The pressure may cause low back pain, pain running down the back of both legs, and numbness or tingling between the legs in the area you would contact if you were seated on a saddle. The pressure on the nerves can cause a loss of control in the bowels or bladder. If the pressure isn’t relieved, it can lead to damage to the bowels and bladder. This condition is called cauda equina syndrome. Doctors recommend immediate surgery to remove pressure from the nerves.
McCormick Law Office workers compensation attorneys in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pain from a herniated disc can disable a worker and should be addressed by a medical professional.