Today's guest post is from Brody Ockander of Rehm Bennett Moore of the Nebraska Bar a regular contributor to this blog.
Pain radiating down the leg to the small toe in the general pattern of the S1 dermatome suggests that a herniated disk may be pinching the S1 nerve root in the spine.
I hurt my back, and my doctor said it’s my “disc.” What is going on?
Obviously, you’ll want to speak to your doctor about the specifics of your injury, but below is a simple primer on the basic information of an injured, slipped, bulging, herniated disc.
Discs are in between your vertebrae in your spine. They are there as shock absorbers between the bone and also help provide the spine with mobility.
When you have an injury to your disc, you may have what’s called a disc herniation or a disc bulge. If you have a disc herniation, the gel-type substance in the disc has extended beyond where the disc normally contains the gel substance. In the case of a herniation, you can have an extruding disc (more prominent) or a protruding disc (less prominent). The herniation becomes a problem when it interferes or “impinges” or “entraps” the nerves in your spinal column.
A bulging disc is when the gel-type substance is outside the normal disc space, but the outer “shell” of the disc remains intact for the most part. Usually, a bulging disc is less severe than a herniated disc, and bulging discs are sometimes referred to as “protruding discs” as well.
Because the nerves in your spine control your arms and legs, often, your doctor can determine which disc is causing you problems simply by what part of your arm or leg tingles, goes numb, or hurts, along with the location of the pain in your back. For example, if you had a back injury and it now hurts on the outside of your thigh, across the front of your knee, and into your big toe, you likely have an issue with your L4-L5 disc (see the chart as an illustration).
Naturally, a doctor will use your symptoms in conjunction with other diagnostic tests to determine the location of the problem more precisely and will treat your symptoms accordingly. In addition, your doctor will be better able to explain the specifics of your injury more thoroughly and precisely. However, the purpose of this blog is to simply give you an overview of what it means when the doctor says you have a disc “herniation” or “bulge.” This disclaimer applies to the information supplied in today’s blog post.