Q. Is herniated disc a permanent disability?

Answered by
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Mar 10, 2021 and last reviewed on: Apr 12, 2021

Hi doctor,

I am 21-years-old female. I have been having severe back pain, and it gets so unbearable that sometimes I am on the floor and cannot move. I saw a doctor today, and she said it sounds like I am describing a herniated disc and sent me for an x-ray. Then she said nothing came up on the x-ray, and there is nothing wrong with me. I just wanted to ask, do herniated discs show up on x-rays, or should I get a second opinion?



Welcome to icliniq.com.

Regarding your question about the herniated disc, it will not be shown on the x-ray, but an x-ray can show reduced disc space which is considered circumstantial evidence of disc herniation. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is an imaging of choice to detect herniated disc and its impingement on the spinal cord. The risk factors for herniation of the disc are obesity, weak bones (osteoporosis, etc.), old age, chronic steroid use, infection in vertebrae such as tuberculosis, trauma, sudden heavy load-bearing.

Thank you doctor,

Do you think it would be worth getting more scans done? It feels like an aching pain that turns into a burning sensation down my legs. I work in an office job, so sitting is quite painful. I do have quite a high pain threshold and know that it’s not just regular back pain. I used to be a competitive cheerleader, which was quite strenuous on my back. Any advice would be great.



Welcome back to icliniq.com.

Shooting pain or burning radiating to legs suggests nerve impingement or cord compression. Yes, it is advisable to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of lumbosacral spines. I would recommend you to consult a neurosurgeon first in this regard.

Thank you doctor,

The pain comes every two months or so. If it is not flaring up at the time, will the injury still show up on MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or should I wait until it is aggravated again in a couple of weeks?



Welcome back to icliniq.com.

Yes, disc herniation pain may be continuous or intermittent that comes and goes. The pain may be exacerbated by sneezing, coughing, or straining. Depending on the individual, bending or twisting, prolonged standing, or conversely sitting may also aggravate the condition, and pain may vary over time. Restricting activity, ice or heat therapy, and taking over-the-counter medications will help in recovery. Regarding the timing of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), I would recommend consulting a neurosurgeon first.

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