Muscle weakness from herniated discs in the spine is an extreme symptom that results from compression of the nerve roots in the central nervous system. These nerve roots send signals from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body – and back again – which explains why pain or discomfort in the extremities can often stem from back and neck issues. Should the soft cushions between the vertebrae – known as discs –dislodge or rupture, there is a risk of the adjoining nerve roots becoming compressed. If the nerve roots are under too much pressure, they may be unable to carry signals from the brain to various muscles in the body, making muscles feel weak and unresponsive.
While symptoms of a herniated back disc are not always present, a nerve root that has become compressed or inflamed by a herniated disc can potentially inhibit muscle reflexes or even basic function. The cause and extent of the weakness are entirely dependent on specific spinal nerves being compressed by the herniated disc. In the lumbar spine (lower back), a compressed nerve root can be the cause of lower back pain, but also numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the legs and feet. Meanwhile, a herniated cervical disc (in the neck) can cause neck pain and weakness in the arms and hands. The most common symptoms of a herniated disc are as follows:
- Chronic pain and stiffness
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- The sensation of “pins and needles”
- Muscle weakness
In the event that muscle weakness from a herniated disc is present, it is important to visit a physician to both identify the origin of the problem and develop a course of action. Treatment options to address the weakness can vary. Often the weakness can be treated with a conservative approach – including physical therapy, exercise, over-the-counter or prescription medication, and hot and cold packs, among others. Occasionally, a conservative approach isn’t entirely effective against muscle weakness, in which case a surgical alternative may be suggested.
If this is the diagnosis you have received, contact the award-winning staff at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) for a free review of your MRI or CT scan to learn more about the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures offered at LSI to regain your strength. Living with muscle weakness does not need to be a permanent disability, and with advances in modern medicine, there are exciting new alternatives to traditional open-back disc surgery.