Everyone's spine is very different. Everyone experiences pain very differently. A large number of people have either bulging or herniated discs with no symptoms. HOWEVER, those of us who have had or do have symptoms know how painful nerve pain can be!
In our Vertebra Break Down we talk about discs in a more technical manner. Intervertebral discs are circular cushions that live in the spaces in between vertebral bodies, helping receive and distribute pressure down through the spine. Discs are kind of shaped like jelly donuts (flatish, circular and filled with gooey liquid). In a healthy spine, there is equal pressure running through the discs--no one part (front, sides or back of the circular disc) is receiving more force. When your spine becomes imbalanced, the vertebrae can shift in a way that weights one part of the disc more than another, causing the jelly to move over to the opposite side causing a bulge on that side, and in some cases, the jelly shoots out and your disc herniates. This bulge of viscous liquid or expulsion of liquid can put pressure on the nerves that exit vertebral segments and enervate particular parts of your body. When this happens, you may experience weakness, tingling or pain in the referred area.
Certain parts of your spine correlate to certain parts of your body. Your spinal cord comes from your brain and continues down your spine like a long horse tail. Nerves exit different parts of your spine and continue out into your body and limbs. For instance the nerves that enervate your arms and upper body leave your spine at the cervical (neck) level. The nerves that enervate your lower body leave your spine from your lower back. The place where the nerve leave the spine is called the "nerve root". When a nerve root is compressed or aggravated by a change in the shape of your disc, the pain will shoot to the place in your body that particular nerve travels. This is called "referred pain". This pain can be felt as weakness, tingling, burning or numbness.
Hopefully this post can help explain why, when you are feeling pain or experiencing weakness somewhere else in your body, it is possible that the problem originates from your back. We always look for a healthy, elongated, supported, strong and balanced spine so that we can avoid the types of imbalances that cause disc bulges and herniations!
If you think you are having nerve pain, it is best to consult an orthopedic doctor and not self diagnose.