What a Herniated Disc Feels Like & 3 Quick Tests to Do At Home

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What a Herniated Disc Feels Like & 3 Quick Tests to Do At Home

Article Reviewed & Updated on 11/21/2022

Medical Reviewer: Kari Haberman

What a Herniated Disc Feels Like & 3 Quick Tests to Do at Home

Do you have pain in the lower right side above the buttocks? If the answer to that is yes, then you are most likely to have a slipped disc. Many other symptoms point straight to a slipped disc.

Let's look at all the symptoms before discussing what exactly a slipped disc is and how a few tests at home can help you find out whether you have a herniated disc.

Slipped Disc Back Symptoms

Many people often confuse the pain of a herniated disc with that of a pulled-back muscle. Here are all the symptoms you should look out for:

Numbness - If you experience numbness in one side of your body, you may have a herniated disc.

Pain In Arms And Legs - It is typical to have pain in either your arms or your legs if you have a slipped disc in your back. You may also have pain in both of them simultaneously.

Restricted Movement - Your herniated disc might not allow you to move as freely as you'd like. If you turn a certain way or move around a certain way, you might experience excruciating pain in your lower back.

Muscle Weakness - You may be trying to move with all your might, but your muscles might not respond. This is called muscle weakness and is often a symptom of a herniated disc.

Tingling In Affected Area - If you have tingling in the affected area or even if you have any burning sensations in your lower back, you might have a slipped disc.

These symptoms, among others, are prevalent in patients with a slipped disc. Now that you know what a slipped disc feels like, let's discuss it in further detail.

What's Slipped Disc?

spinal cord slipped disc

To understand what a slipped disc is, you must first understand the anatomy of your spinal cord. Our spinal cord is made of different bones stacked one on the other in a column-like fashion.

This series of bones is called the vertebrae. The top seven are called the cervical spine, and the next twelve are the thoracic spine, followed by five lumbar spines.

At the bottom of the vertebrae, you can find the Sacrum and the coccyx. There are discs to cushion these bones from rubbing against each other. Our everyday lives are full of activities that can shock our bodies, and these discs absorb those shocks.

The formation of a disc includes a soft gelatinous center which is then surrounded by an outer ring. If you face an injury, the inner portion might come out of the ring, called a herniated disc. A herniated disc causes a great amount of pain as it presses on the spinal nerve. When a nerve is compressed, it might cause numbness wherever that nerve is ending.

A slipped disc can progress into a serious injury and might require surgery to repair. This is why you must not let it aggravate further.

Three At Home Tests For A Herniated Disc

You might not want to head out to the doctor or simply do not have the time. However, you can easily perform any of the three tests mentioned here to check if you have a slipped disc:

Straight Leg Raise

straight leg raise

The leg raise test is straightforward and can immediately tell you if you have a herniated disc. It is best to ask someone to help you perform this test, as doing it on your own can be troublesome.

To perform this test, you need to lay down straight with your head elevated on a pillow. Then, use the leg you have pain in and straighten it. While the test is not too complicated, it would be best to keep your toe pointed and gradually bring the leg up. See how far up you can take your leg. Somewhere along the way, your leg will start hurting.

When this happens, back off a little and ask your partner to push your toe towards your chin. If you have a herniated disc, you might experience leg pain along with the pain of a herniated disc. If that happens, there is a high chance that your disc is herniated.

Walking On Heels

The second test is referred to as the 'walking on heels'.  For this test, you do not need the help of a partner, as you can easily do it on your own. 

All you have to do is walk on your heels. If you have a slipped disk, you are very likely not able to walk on your heels. You might be able to stand on them, but one leg might not follow when you try walking on your heels.

The same goes for walking on your toes. If you cannot walk on your toes and experience pain in your affected leg, you may have a herniated disc.

Seated Test

The last test requires you to sit in a slumped position and straighten the leg you have pain in. Once you straighten your legs, pull the toe towards you. Make sure you don't straighten your back as then you may not be able to tell whether you have a herniated disc.

If it starts hurting when you push your toe towards yourself, there’s a high probability that you have disc herniation.

Can a Slipped Disc Heal On Its Own?

This is a very commonly asked question, as many people wish for the herniated disc to be fixed on its own. According to doctors, the pain of a herniated disc goes away on its own.

It ideally takes around six months for the pain to go away on its own. However, you need to ensure that you take care of it and refrain from activities that could cause low back strain.

Doctors often suggest patients take pain killers to manage the pain for the first couple of days and avoid strenuous activities.

With just a little bit of care, most patients will be able to get rid of their herniated discs.

5 Activities to Avoid with a Slipped Disc

If you keep up with activities that are hard on your back, you might make it worse. Doctors suggest that if you are in excruciating pain, it is best to avoid some activities. Here are five activities you must avoid at all costs:

Sitting Excessively

Many people are often under the impression that sitting in the same position for long periods can help heal their herniated discs. Contrary to popular belief, sitting actually puts a lot of pressure on your vertebrae. It would be best if you took a walk every now and then to avoid sitting for prolonged periods.

Working Out

Even though it is important to stay active while you have a herniated disc, you cannot exert a lot of pressure on your vertebrae, and that includes working out. The best way to know when an exercise is not suitable for you is when you start experiencing a little bit of pain.

As soon as you start experiencing pain, stopping that exercise would be a wise choice. The obvious exercises to avoid are deadlifts, sit-ups, and hamstring stretches, as these put the most strain on your back.

Bending Over

The worst thing you can do for your herniated disc is bending over. Bending over can cause excruciating pain and even make your herniated disc worse. Several times throughout the day, you have to bend over and do things, so you need to be extra cautious if you have a herniated disc. If you have to get something done, it is best to ask a friend or your partner to do it for you.


Jumping rope is certainly not a good idea as it might make matters worse for your herniated disc. Be very careful when you have a herniated disc, as jumping can worsen them. There are many times where we do not even realize that we are jumping or have jumped. This is why one must be extremely cautious with their everyday activities to avoid hurting themselves.

Normal Sleeping Position

When you have a herniated disc, you may experience pain while you are sleeping. This is why doctors recommend that you avoid sleeping in the same way as you usually do. It is best to sleep with a rolled-up towel in the small of your back, as that can help maintain its curve. Elevating your legs while you sleep also helps with your back’s curvature.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

As mentioned earlier, the pain from a herniated disc can go away on its own, but if it does not and becomes unbearable, you must see a doctor right away. The pain may grow to the extent where you might no longer be able to do any of your usual activities. If that happens, you must let a doctor take a look at you and decide if you need surgery.

In Conclusion

While herniated discs can be painful, the problem can go away with rest and various treatments under professional supervision. If you are sure you have a herniated disc, all you need is a little bit of care, and you do not have to worry about it anymore. However, if the pain gets worse, it would be best to reach out to a medical professional immediately.

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