How to Diagnose a Bulging or Ruptured Disc



Sit on a table and lift your leg straight up. If you feel pain when you do this, your lumbar disc may be herniated. You may also have a sharp pain in one part of your leg, hip or buttocks. Other parts may be numb and the affected leg may be weak.


Get a friend. Sit on a table and bend your head forward. As your friend puts slight downward pressure on the top of your head, bend your head forward. Then move it from side to side. If your pain or numbness increase, you may have a problem with your cervical vertebrae. You may feel pain when you move your neck, or in your shoulder blades and upper arm.


Call your physician if you suspect a herniated disc. You will usually be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) and muscle relaxants, if you are experiencing muscle spasms. For the most part, ruptured discs can be treated with rest, NSAIDs and physical therapy to strengthen the back structures and ease the disc back into place.


Get the tests ordered by your doctor. If your condition is debilitating, he may order a spine MRI scan or spine CT scan to see where the compression is located. He may also order an EMG to find the specific nerve root involved.

Tips and Warnings

  • During the self-diagnostic steps, stop what you are doing immediately if it causes pain. The pain gives you your answer.
  • A herniated disc, also called a ruptured, bulging or slipped disc, is a condition caused by spinal discs that move out of place, which compresses the spinal nerves. This condition results in pain, numbness or weakness of the structures served by that nerve. Generally the vertebrae involved are those in the lower back, the lumbar region, or the neck discs, the cervical region. The portions of the spine in the middle of the back (the thoracic region) have this problem less frequently.