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Column What are the early symptoms of a herniated disc? Check points to be vigilant about before it becomes serious


September 01, 2023

The intervertebral disc is made up of two different components, the nucleus pulposus and the annulus fibrosus.

Disc herniation is a condition in which the nucleus pulposus protrudes outward due to a fissure in the annulus fibrosus.

Symptoms of a herniated disc may vary widely, but what symptoms should be considered indicative of a herniated lumbar disc?

Early symptoms of disc herniation

Early symptoms of a herniated lumbar disc are usually back pain, pain in the buttocks and lower legs, and numbness.

Low back pain

The first symptom is of course back pain.

In many cases, it begins with a slight discomfort that is not so much pain. If you feel pain only when you perform certain movements, and then you feel pain all the time, you may be suffering from a herniated disc.

If the discomfort or pain is temporary, there is little need to worry, but if it lasts more than a month and the pain is getting stronger, you need to be vigilant.

Also, if the pain becomes more intense with certain movements, such as bending forward, a herniated disc can be suspected.

Pain in the buttocks and in lower extremities

With a herniated disc, pain may occur from the lower back to the buttocks and legs. At first, it is only on one side, and you may not be able to move your leg as much as you would like, or it may be that you stumble easily.

In more severe cases, the pain may occur on both sides of the body, and not just on one side.


One symptom of a herniated disc that should not be overlooked is numbness. If numbness runs from the buttocks to the toes, the sciatic nerve is compressed.

Numbness may be temporary, or it may be pulsating continuously and persistently. If there is constant numbness, the herniation may have become severe.

Self-Check for Herniated Disc Symptoms

If you experience discomfort and pain in your daily activities and are wondering if you are suffering from a herniated disc, check for the following symptoms:

・Difficulty to get up.

・Difficulty in turning over in bed

・Difficulty to stand up for a long time/not able to stand for a long time

・Difficulty in sitting for a long time/not able to sit for a long time

・Pain in the lower back/numbness or pain in the lower limbs when bending over

・Pain in the lower back/numbness or pain in the lower limbs when putting on your socks

・Constant pain in the lower back.

・Dull sensation in the lower limbs.

・Inability to apply strength to the legs due to pain or numbness.

If you have any of these symptoms, a lumbar disc herniation may be likely. In such cases, it is recommended to see a doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Points about your symptoms to communicate to your doctor

When you visit a doctor for back pain problems, you must correctly report your symptoms in order to receive an accurate diagnosis.

When you visit the doctor, be sure to communicate him/her the following information:

・How long you have had the symptoms for?

・Where does it hurt/feel numb?

Give details not only on the parts of the body such as the back or the legs, but also the front and back, left and right, upper and lower parts of the body, etc.

・What kind of pain or discomfort do you feel?

The intensity of the pain may vary, so be as specific as possible. The time of day when symptoms occur can also be important information, so do not forget to tell the doctor.

・When does it hurt?

Tell the doctor in as much detail as possible: “It hurts when I walk,” “It hurts only when I bend at the waist,” “It hurts even if I don’t do anything,” and so on.

What kind of examinations are performed at our clinic?

To diagnose a herniated disc, an x-ray (X-ray) or MRI scan will be performed.


The x-ray image mainly shows the condition of the bones. Since the intervertebral discs, which are cartilage, do not show up on X-rays, it is impossible to diagnose a herniated disc with it alone. However, it is essential to confirm that there is no disease other than herniation that can cause back pain.

MRI Examination

An MRI scan is the test most widely used to diagnose herniated discs; MRI images can confirm the presence or absence of protrusions, pressure on or damage to nerves, and inflammation of the disc, nerve, ligament, or joint areas associated with the cause of back pain.

Examination at the time of the consultation

In addition to the imaging examination, a physical examination will be performed as part of the consultation.

By having the patient bend forward and backward and checking the appearance of symptoms, we can determine if a herniated disc or spinal canal stenosis is present.

We also check for leg pain by lifting the patient’s leg with the lower limb extension raising test (SLR test) and the femoral nerve stretching test (FNS test). If pain is observed by performing these tests, it can be determined that a lumbar disc herniation is present.

Other tests include CT scan, discography, myelography, and nerve examination, but a consultation and MRI scan are sufficient to determine if a disc herniation requires treatment.

What happens after a herniated disc is diagnosed?

Once a herniated disc is diagnosed, many people wonder if treatment is always necessary or if it may heal spontaneously.

A herniated disc is a condition in which symptoms may sometimes disappear and heal spontaneously; however, the herniated disc does not repair or regenerate, so symptoms may reappear in the future.

Early surgical treatment is recommended in cases of severe symptoms such as movement disorders and when the herniated disc becomes severe.

However, since surgical procedures cannot effectively seal the crack in the annulus fibrosus, the nucleus pulposus continues to leak after surgery, causing a high likelihood of herniation recurrence in the future.

Treatment at our clinic

Our clinic offers the Cellgel procedure, a treatment to repair the damaged discs.

With our Cellgel procedure, we inject a drug that fills the cracks in the disc, which in turn forms a gel that replaces the cracks, thus providing a fundamental cure. It is characterized by the fact that the volume of the disc is not reduced at all, and the drug remains in the disc as a gel-like implant after treatment, thus preserving the disc.

If you have been diagnosed with disc herniation and are suffering from back pain and numbness, please consider a consultation at our clinic.

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