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Herniated disc

Diagnosis of herniated disc

At Dignity Health, your doctor will assess your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and order tests to get an accurate picture of your spine and nerve function. These tests may include imaging, nerve tests, or a myelogram, which uses contrast dye and X-rays or computed tomography (CT).

Some of the symptoms of herniated disc are also common in other conditions, so a thorough evaluation will determine the exact source of your symptoms.


Once your symptoms and test results have been reviewed, your doctor will partner with you to create a personalized treatment plan. It may include home therapy, medications, herniated disc exercises, and steroid injections.

In some cases, herniated disc surgery can remove all or part of your disc and minimize discomfort. In very rare cases, surgery might also be necessary to decrease pressure on your nerves.

When to seek emergency care for a herniated disc

Back pain alone is typically not cause for alarm. Soft tissue injuries usually resolve on their own within a few weeks. However, if you suspect that you may have a herniated disc, consult with your doctor about whether you require treatment. Herniated discs share symptoms with many other conditions, so it’s better to be sure.

If you have symptoms of nerve infringement, such as pain and numbness in your extremities, you should seek urgent (same-day) care. In addition, seek care for the following symptoms:

  • “Saddle” numbness in your pelvis and upper legs (this can indicate a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome)
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Severe or worsening numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Signs of stroke such as drooping facial features


Dignity Health offers advanced treatment for herniated disc as part of our orthopedic services.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.