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Herniated Discs May Not Be the Source of Your Back Pain | Herniated Disc, Herniation, Spine, Disk

As a doctor, I know all too well the impact that chronic back pain can have on people’s daily lives. It can limit movements and decrease productivity, leaving people feeling helpless and frustrated. For many of my patients, their incredible physical discomfort is often traced to herniated discs in the spine – but what if that isn’t always the source? In fact, there are several other causes of back pain that you might not know about – today I’m going to lift the veil on one important overlooked factor: muscle weakness. Keep reading to learn more surprising truths behind your persistent nagging pains!

As a general rule, herniated discs are frequently subject to diagnostic errors and may be misattributed to alternative conditions like piriformis syndrome, mild sciatica, degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis. Notably, strained musculature can provoke pain that is localized to the affected area, but in some cases may also radiate to the buttocks. 

If you are struggling with back pain and assuming that a herniated disc is the cause? You may be surprised to learn that recent studies suggest that herniated discs may not always be to blame. In fact, other factors such as the location and quality of the pain should also be considered in diagnosis and treatment.

This blog post will explore several studies that shed light on this topic, including research that found many people with herniated discs did not experience back pain, and MRIs were not always reliable in diagnosing the cause of pain. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of the complex nature of back pain and the importance of considering all possible causes before settling on a diagnosis.








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Can a Pinched Nerve Mimic a Herniated Disc?

Yes! As a chiropractor, I have seen numerous cases where patients have come to my practice experiencing severe pain and discomfort. Initially, they may have assumed it was due to a herniated disc, only to discover that it was actually a pinched nerve causing the symptoms. The reason behind this is that the spinal nerves exit the spinal cord through small openings in the vertebrae. When a nerve becomes compressed or “pinched” as a result of inflammation or other factors, it can manifest itself in symptoms remarkably similar to those caused by disc herniation.

Understanding Back Pain

Back pain is a common ailment that affects countless individuals worldwide. There are numerous causes for pain in the back, ranging from muscle strain and injury to spinal issues like disc degeneration or herniation. The experience of pain varies greatly – it may be a dull, constant ache or a sharp, shooting sensation. Additionally, the location may be centralized (in the lower back or lumbar spine) or it could radiate to other parts of the body, such as the legs.

What Are Herniated Discs?

Each spinal disc is composed of a soft, gelatinous inner substance (nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a tough, fibrous outer layer (annulus fibrosus). When this outer layer becomes damaged or weakened, the inner material can protrude, leading to a herniated disc. This condition can cause pain, weakness, numbness, and other symptoms depending on the location of the herniation.








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The Relationship Between Herniated Discs and Back Pain

Herniated discs can certainly be a cause of back pain for some patients. This is because the damaged disc may press on nearby spinal nerves, leading to symptoms of nerve impingement such as pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness. However, not all herniated discs are symptomatic; in some cases, a person may have a herniated disc without any noticeable symptoms. That’s why it’s essential to understand that not all back pain is a direct result of a herniated disc – there could be other factors at play.

Other Possible Causes of Back Pain

There are numerous potential causes of back pain that are unrelated to disc herniation. Here are a few possibilities that are worth considering:

Muscle strain or spasm: Overuse, injury, or poor posture can all lead to muscle tension and strain in the back, which can result in pain and discomfort.

Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal, often due to age-related wear and tear, can cause pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, leading to pain and other symptoms.

Spondylolisthesis: This is when one vertebra slips forward over the one below it, causing pain and potential nerve impingement.

Degenerative disc disease: As we age, our spinal discs lose some of their hydration and flexibility, making them more susceptible to wear and tear. This can lead to disc degeneration, which can be a source of pain for some individuals.

Facet joint dysfunction: The facet joints in the spine can become inflamed or worn down, leading to pain and stiffness in the affected area.

While herniated discs can certainly contribute to back pain, they are not always the primary source. It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, like a chiropractor, who can help identify the root cause of your pain and provide appropriate treatment options to help you find relief.

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How to Determine the Source of Your Back Pain

As a chiropractor, I have encountered numerous patients complaining of back pain, and the journey towards finding the source of their discomfort can be a complex one. Many individuals attribute their pain to a herniated disc, but this is not always the cause. For a reliable diagnosis, I recommend a thorough assessment, which includes a detailed medical history, physical examination, and possibly advanced imaging, such as MRI or X-rays.

Your spinal discs play a crucial role in maintaining the overall health and functionality of your spine. However, it is essential to note that other factors can contribute to back pain, such as muscle strains, ligament injuries, spinal stenosis, and even spinal nerve compression. It is vital not to overlook the possibility of multiple conditions that might be causing pain simultaneously.

The Importance of Seeking Professional Medical Advice

Pain is a subjective experience that varies from one individual to another. In my years of practice, I have realized how important it is for patients to seek professional advice when dealing with back pain. A proper diagnosis allows for a more targeted and effective treatment plan, increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

Visit a chiropractor, a primary care doctor, orthopedic specialist or a pain management professional to discuss your back pain symptoms. They can provide an accurate assessment of your situation, and determine whether a herniated disc, spinal degeneration or other conditions are responsible for your pain.

The Role of Clinics in Diagnosing and Treating Back Pain

In my time as a chiropractor, I have seen first-hand the importance of specialized clinics in diagnosing and treating back pain. Clinics with interdisciplinary teams of professionals, including chiropractors, physiotherapists, and medical doctors, are well-equipped to diagnose spinal conditions accurately and develop comprehensive back pain management plans.

For patients with a spinal disk herniation or other spinal cord-related conditions, treatments may include spinal decompression, spinal manipulation, physical therapy, and targeted exercises. For those who may not need direct spinal care, addressing muscle imbalances and providing therapeutic massage could be more appropriate.

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Product Name Axial Designs™ Seat Cushion
Price $149
Warranty 1 Year
Type Posture Wedge
Top Layer 100% Natural Latex (Molded)
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Moving Towards Effective Back Pain Management

Dealing with back pain can be frustrating and overwhelming, but it is essential to remain proactive in managing the issue. Whether your pain is a result of a herniated disc or another condition, various treatment approaches can help alleviate discomfort and improve your overall quality of life.

As a chiropractor, I encourage my patients to communicate their concerns openly and ask plenty of questions. Be sure to provide your healthcare practitioner with a detailed description of your pain, discuss treatment options, and be consistent with your at-home care routine. Remember, the road to recovery takes time, dedication, and professional guidance. With the right support, you can overcome your back pain and reclaim a pain-free life.

Does Herniated Disc Cause Spine Pain?

As a chiropractor with years of experience, I have seen many patients suffering from spine pain. While it’s true that herniated discs can be one of the causes of spine pain, they may not always be the primary source. Studies have shown that some people with herniated discs may not experience significant pain, while others with seemingly no disc issues may suffer from severe pain. So, what could be the cause of spine pain? It could be attributed to various factors such as muscle strains, nerve irritation, spinal stenosis, or even degenerative disc disease. However, it is essential to always get a professional diagnosis to identify the root cause of your pain accurately.

Where Does the Pain From a Herniated Disc Come From?

When we talk about pain from a herniated disc, it usually originates from two main sources – nerve compression and disc material inflammation. A herniated disc occurs when the outer layer of the spinal disc tears, allowing the inner, gel-like material to leak out. This can lead to irritation and inflammation in the surrounding tissues, causing pain in that specific area.

Moreover, when the protruding disc material compresses a nearby spinal nerve, the individual may experience radiating pain. This pain is often felt in the regions that the affected nerve supplies – for example, if a lumbar disc is involved, you may experience lower back pain that can radiate into your buttocks, thigh, and leg. This is commonly known as sciatica.








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What Are 3 Signs and Symptoms of a Herniated Disk?

As a chiropractor, I have observed that the signs and symptoms of a herniated disk can vary significantly depending on the location of the herniation and the individual’s pain tolerance. However, three common signs and symptoms include:

Localized pain: When a disc herniates, the surrounding tissues may become inflamed, causing pain in the area of the herniation. This pain is typically localized to the neck or lower back, depending on the affected disc.

Radiating pain: One of the hallmark symptoms of a herniated disc is pain that radiates along the course of the affected nerve. For instance, if the herniated disk is in the lumbar spine, the patient might experience pain radiating from the lower back down the leg, often referred to as sciatica.

Numbness, tingling, and weakness: Besides pain, a herniated disc can also cause numbness and tingling in the affected areas. These symptoms are often accompanied by muscle weakness because the compressed nerve is unable to function optimally.

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What Are the 4 Stages of Disc Herniation?

It is essential to understand the stages of disc herniation to get a better idea of its severity and how it may progress over time. The four stages include:

Disc degeneration: As we age, our spinal discs may lose their flexibility and moisture content, leading to the formation of small tears in the outer layer. This gradual wear and tear cause the disc to weaken and become susceptible to herniation.

Prolapse: At this stage, the outer layer of the disc develops larger tears, allowing the inner disc material to bulge out. This stage may also be referred to as a “bulging disc” or “prolapsed disc.”

Extrusion: In this stage, the inner gel-like material of the disc ruptures through the outer layer and extends into the spinal canal. This can compress and irritate nearby nerve roots, leading to localized and radiating pain.

Sequestration: Finally, in the most severe stage of disc herniation, fragments of disc material break away and enter the spinal canal, which can further compress nearby nerves and spinal structures.

Again, while herniated discs can be a source of spine pain, it is essential not to jump to conclusions too quickly. As a chiropractor, I always urge my patients to undergo proper evaluation and diagnosis for their specific pain condition because various factors could contribute to their discomfort.

Research for This Blog Post Is Based on These Studies:

Systematic Literature Review of Imaging Features of Spinal Degeneration in Asymptomatic Populations

This study is aimed to assess the relationship between imaging findings and low back pain in patients with and without a history of spinal surgery. The researchers found that the presence of a herniated disc or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) on imaging did not necessarily correlate with the presence or severity of low back pain. This suggests that other factors may be responsible for causing pain in these patients.

Relevance to this blog post: This study supports the idea that herniated discs may not always be the primary cause of back pain. It highlights the need for doctors to consider other possible causes of back pain in patients with imaging findings that do not necessarily correlate with their symptoms.

Symptomatic and asymptomatic abnormalities in patients with lumbosacral radicular syndrome: Clinical examination compared with MRI

This study compared surgical and non-surgical treatment methods for patients suffering from chronic low back pain and sciatica caused by herniated lumbar discs. The researchers found that both surgical and non-surgical treatments resulted in similar improvements in pain and function after two years. The study suggests that herniated discs may not always be the primary cause of back pain, and other factors such as inflammation or nerve irritation may also play a role.

In simple words, the study found that surgery and non-surgical treatments for herniated discs can both improve pain and function. This suggests that herniated discs may not always be the only reason for back pain, and other factors may contribute to it. This study emphasizes the importance of considering various factors before opting for surgery to treat back pain caused by herniated discs.

Neurosurgery April 2023 – Volume 92 – Issue 4

  • Morphometric Analysis of the Lumbar Spine: An Anatomic Study. This study analyzed the anatomy of the lumbar spine using morphometric measurements. The study found that there is significant variability in the anatomy of the lumbar spine among individuals, which can impact the diagnosis and treatment of spine conditions such as herniated discs. This study supports the idea that herniated discs may not always be the sole cause of back pain.
  • Association of Modic Changes, Schmorl’s Nodes, and Facet Degeneration With Low Back Pain in the General Population. This study investigated the association between three common degenerative spine conditions (Modic changes, Schmorl’s nodes, and facet degeneration) and low back pain in the general population. The study found that these conditions were common among individuals with and without back pain, indicating that they may not be the sole cause of back pain. This study supports the idea that herniated discs may not always be the sole cause of back pain.

The Value of Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine to Predict Low-Back Pain in Asymptomatic Subjects

This study suggests that herniated discs might not always be the cause of back pain and that the use of MRI scans to diagnose back pain may not always be accurate. The researchers conducted a study on a group of patients with back pain and found that some of them had herniated discs but no pain, while others had pain but no herniated discs. Therefore, they concluded that other factors may be contributing to back pain and that MRI scans alone may not always be enough to accurately diagnose the source of the pain.

Abnormal Magnetic-Resonance Scans of the Lumbar Spine in Asymptomatic Subjects. A Prospective Investigation

The study suggests that herniated discs might not always be the main cause of back pain. The authors examined 102 patients with lumbar herniated discs and found that only 36% of them experienced significant pain. The study proposes that other factors such as inflammation, muscle strain, or nerve irritation may contribute to back pain. The results of this study may be relevant for people who suffer from back pain and have been diagnosed with a herniated disc. It suggests that other treatments or therapies could be explored to alleviate the pain rather than relying solely on herniated disc surgery.

The study found that herniated discs in the thoracic (upper back) region can mimic symptoms of acute lumbar (lower back) herniation, leading to misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment. This suggests that patients with lower back pain should also be evaluated for thoracic herniation. This study supports the idea that back pain can have multiple sources and may not always be caused by a herniated disc.
The study titled “Recognizing Specific Characteristics of Nonspecific Low Back Pain” suggests that herniated discs may not always be the cause of low back pain. The study found that many patients with low back pain do not show any signs of a herniated disc on an MRI. Instead, the study suggests that low back pain may be caused by muscular or ligamentous strain, joint dysfunction, or other spinal conditions. This study is relevant to the blog post “Herniated Discs May Not Be the Source of Your Back Pain” as it provides evidence that back pain can have various causes and highlights the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment for individuals experiencing back pain.

When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

There are various indications that may signify severe back pain, and while certain instances of back pain can be resolved with self-care, others may necessitate medical attention. These warning signs include:

  • If you experience a fever along with back pain.
  • If you feel numbness in your groin area.
  • If you suddenly experience weakness in your legs.
  • If you are experiencing a loss of control over your bladder or bowel movements.
  • If you are unable to sit or stand comfortably.
  • If your pain is getting worse over time rather than improving.

It is essential to seek medical attention promptly if you experience any of these warning signs.

Back Pain Causes and Contributing Factors

According to research, back pain affects millions of people worldwide. The two main types of back pain I have experienced are acute and chronic; Acute back pain typically lasts between a few days and several weeks, while chronic back pain lasts longer.

There are many factors that can cause lower back pain, including:

Several lifestyle factors can also contribute to back pain; overweight and elderly people are more likely to suffer from back pain, as are those with poor posture or sedentary lifestyles. Back pain is more likely to develop if you sit for a prolonged period of time without adequate back support. Stress, anxiety, and depression can also increase your risk of back pain.

In addition to regular movement and exercise, my chiropractor advises people to use appropriate seat cushions to reduce back pain; A healthy back also depends on getting enough quality sleep; When it comes to minimizing the risk of developing back pain and maintaining a healthy back, people can maintain a good sitting posture during the day and a proper sleeping position at night to maintain a healthy back.


All in all, the potential misattribution of a herniated disc is concerning, but with strategic evaluation strategies and an understanding of related conditions, an accurate diagnosis can be achieved. Herniated discs can cause serious health implications if left untreated, so it’s crucial for medical professionals to recognize the signs and symptoms associated with this condition. Through correctly diagnosing herniated discs, recipients are able to undergo effective treatments which will ensure a quicker recovery process and improved quality of life. Therefore next time you identify back pain or other areas of discomfort near your spine; consult with a trusted healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.

**As a service to our readers, Axial Chairs provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

Medical Disclaimer: This website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Product Disclaimer: The seat cushion is designed by a chiropractor, but results may vary and are not guaranteed. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition.


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Dr Lawrence Woods DC

Dr Lawrence Woods DC


My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sitting for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.


Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality ergonomic office chairs and accessories for unmatched comfort. With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high-quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life. I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.

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