Occurs when the soft gel-like material between your vertebrae (spinal bones) ruptures through the covering and pushes onto the nerve roots coming off your spinal cord. A herniated disk usually occurs from chronic stress to the disk's outer covering called the annulus fibrosis.
Activities such as repetitive lifting, smoking and working with tools that vibrate cause faster degeneration of the covering of your disk and can increase your risk for having a disk herniation. Some people with disk problems do not have any history of these problems or injury. This is because natural aging can also cause disks to weaken and rupture.
The pain is usually described as beginning in the buttock and traveling into the back part of the thigh and into the foot. The pain is sharp and sometimes causes someone to collapse the leg. In fact, most people with a true herniated disk have more leg pain than back pain. Lying on your side with your knees flexed up sometimes relieves the pain. Sitting with all of the pressure on your tailbone worsens the pain. It is also worse with any sudden movements of your back.
Severe disk herniations cause more leg pain than back pain. In addition, they may cause significant weakness in the leg that is painful. Some muscles are affected more than others depending on the site of the herniation.
Your doctor can make the diagnosis with a physical examination and by listening to your symptoms. Usually x-rays are taken. Many physicians will also send you for an MRI to get a better look at the disk and which nerve it may be pinching.
If you develop numbness or weakness in your foot or around your buttock and entire bottom, you should report this immediately to your doctor. Failure to report these symptoms immediately may result in permanent nerve damage.