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Back Pain Health Center

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Lumbar Herniated Disc - When To Call a Doctor

Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if:

  • An injury causes numbness or weakness in one or both legs.

Call your doctor now if:

Recommended Related to Back Pain

Understanding Spinal Disk Problems -- Diagnosis & Treatment

Because there are many causes of back pain, it is important for your doctor to do a thorough history and physical examination to determine if a spinal disk problem is the root of your back pain. A herniated or slipped disk may press on the nerves coming out from the spinal cord, and it may show up in a targeted neurological exam. Your doctor will check your reflexes, muscle strength, and sensation for abnormalities or changes, especially those that involve the lower extremities. A spinal X-ray may...

Read the Understanding Spinal Disk Problems -- Diagnosis & Treatment article > >

  • You have a new loss of bowel or bladder control.
  • Leg pain is accompanied by persistent weakness, tingling, or numbness in any part of the leg from the buttock to the ankle or foot.
  • New low back pain is accompanied by vomiting and/or fever [101°F (38.5 C) or higher] that lasts longer than 48 hours.
  • Leg pain or intermittent weakness, tingling, or numbness lasts longer than 1 week despite home treatment.
  • You have back pain that either won't go away or builds in intensity over a few weeks.
  • A back injury is work-related, and symptoms don't improve in 2 to 3 days.
  • Back pain is accompanied by pain during urination or blood in the urine.
  • You have back pain that is worse when you are resting than when you are active.
  • You notice a gradual increase in problems with bowel or bladder control.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. If you get better on your own, you won't need treatment. If you get worse, you and your doctor will decide what to do next.

If you have pain, numbness, or tingling in one leg that gets worse with sitting, standing, or walking (without any obvious leg weakness):

  • You may try a brief period of bed rest-usually no more than 1 to 2 days-then gradually begin activities if the pain is manageable.
  • Take short walks.
  • Avoid movements and positions that increase pain or numbness.

Who to see

For diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of a herniated disc, you may see:

For diagnosis and surgical treatment of a herniated disc, specialists include:

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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