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Many people with herniated discs have no symptoms. Pain happens when the bulging disc irritates the membrane on the outside of the spinal cord or spinal nerves. If the disc presses on the nerve roots in the spine, it can cause weakness or numbness in the area of the body where that nerve travels. If the herniated disc isn't pressing on a nerve, you may have an ache in your low back. Or you may have no symptoms at all.
When the disc does press on a nerve in the lower back, symptoms may include:
Pain that travels through the buttock and down a leg to the ankle or foot because of pressure on the sciatic nerve. Low back pain may accompany the leg pain.
Tingling (a "pins-and-needles" feeling) or numbness in one leg. It can start in the buttock or behind the knee and extend to the thigh, ankle, or foot.
Pain in the front of the thigh.
Severe deep muscle pain and muscle spasms.
Weakness in both legs and the loss of bladder or bowel control are symptoms of a specific and severe type of nerve root compression called cauda equina syndrome. This is a rare but serious problem. A person with these symptoms should see a doctor right away.
The Stanford Medicine Online Second Opinion program offers you easy access to our world-class doctors. It’s all done remotely and you don’t have to visit our hospital or one of our clinics for this service. You don’t even need to leave home!