Does A Herniated Disc Always Mean Back Pain?

Nearly all herniated discs occur in the lower back and include symptoms such as leg and back pain. In fact, a herniated disc is one of the most common causes of back pain, as well as one of the most serious. There are many back problems that cause many different types of back pain from mild to acute to chronic back pain, where many of them differ however, are the symptoms.

Back problems such as degenerative disc disease, arthritis, sciatica and slipped discs are common. The key to successful back pain treatment is successfully identifying the symptoms for an accurate diagnosis. Not all back pain is in the lower back, in fact spine pain can be felt in the neck, upper, middle and lower back.


One of the reasons a herniated disc can be difficult to diagnose is because the pain presents itself if many different ways. Although it is one of the most common spinal abnormalities, herniated discs can impede one’s daily activities. Particularly the leg and back pain can be so excruciating that regular activities like walking can be painful. In very rare instances, herniated discs may result in paralysis.

Even though back pain is often associated with slipped spinal discs, no causal link has been found between a herniated disc and back pain. In fact some studies have found that herniated discs are as common among adults without pain as it is those who suffer back pain.


We’ve already discussed just how difficult it can be to receive an accurate diagnosis for an herniated disc, but it is often used as a fall back diagnosis when the underlying cause of the back pain isn’t easily discernible. In fact a herniated disc is often misdiagnosed as sciatica due to the debilitating lower back and leg pain.

A herniated disc is often misdiagnosed as one of two problems including trauma or degenerative disc disease. Because DDD and herniated discs are the most common back problems, they are often confused for one another which is why it is so important to identify symptoms prior to your diagnostic visit with your physician.

Of course since you are not a medical professional you have no way of differentiating a herniated disc from a compressed sciatic nerve. However by identifying key features of your symptoms, you can help your physician give an accurate diagnosis.

Since both a herniated disc as well as sciatica present with lower back and leg pain, they are often confused with another even though sciatica can be a symptom of a herniated disc. The traveling pain from the lower back down the buttocks, hip and thighs is common in both ailments. One of the key differences however, is that herniated disc sufferers are more likely to complain of leg pain than back pain.


The only way to ensure proper treatment of a herniated disc, sciatica or any other back problem is to get an accurate diagnosis. Unfortunately not all back pain treatments work well for all back ailments, and the right treatment depends on the right diagnosis.

Some back problems like a slipped disc needs treatment that focuses on the spine and alignment through inversion therapy and exercise balls, while sciatica has many causes and requires different treatment plans that include chiropractic treatment. The wrong treatment can, unfortunately, make the back pain worse.

The important thing is to identify the symptoms over the course of a few days so you can get medical attention quickly. This will lead to a swift and accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan with best chance of success.

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Filed Under: Herniated Disc
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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