Spinal discs—which serve as cushions between your vertebrae—can sometimes tear and leak inner material that pushes outward and/or irritates nearby nerve roots, triggering lower back and leg pain. This issue is called a lumbar herniated disc, sometimes referred to as a slipped disc or bulging disc. Though the pain may feel sudden, it typically is the result of gradual wearing-down of your disc from repetitive everyday movements.

When a disc herniates, the gel-like inner material leaks out into the spinal canal.
Lumbar Herniated Disc Video

Not everyone with a lumbar herniated disc will experience symptoms. If you have a painful herniated disc in your lower back, you might show these signs:

See Lumbar Herniated Disc: What You Should Know

1. You feel pain in your lower body

Common symptoms with a lumbar disc herniation include dull, throbbing pain in your lower back and sharp, shooting pain that radiates down the back of your legs (commonly called sciatica). You may even notice weakness or numbness in your feet or toes. The pain feels this way because the gel-like substance that leaks from a herniated disc aggravates the sciatic nerve running from your back down through your legs.

See Leg Pain and Numbness: What Might These Symptoms Mean?

This pain typically affects one side of the body and gets worse when you move. A herniated disc may make you feel especially uncomfortable when you get up after prolonged sitting or bend at the waist to pick up an item.

2. Your pain develops quickly and leaves within 6 weeks

Lumbar herniated disc pain usually comes on fast. In most cases, there is no single, clear reason for the pain, such as a specific injury or traumatic event. And yet the pain feels sudden.

See Causes of Lower Back Pain

This condition can be very painful, but for most people, the symptoms don’t last too long. Nearly 90% of people who experience painful lumbar disc herniation report within 6 weeks that they no longer feel the pain, even if they received no medical treatment for it.1

See Lumbar Herniated Disc Symptoms

If you have lower back or leg pain that occurs for a few days and then disappears, that may suggest a herniated disc.

3. You demonstrate certain risk factors

You can get a herniated disc regardless of your age or health situation, and it can occur for reasons not immediately apparent to you. Yet there are several factors that make developing this condition more likely:

  • Herniated discs most often occur in people aged 35 to 50.2
  • Men are nearly twice as likely as women to have pain from a herniated disc.1
  • People with physically demanding jobs show higher rates of disc herniation.3
  • People who are obese may be more susceptible to developing a herniated disc.

If any of the above factors describe you, that does not mean you have a herniated disc. But if you show common disc herniation symptoms and fall into these categories, it is a strong possibility to consider.

See Lumbar Herniated Disc: Causes and Risk Factors

Visit your doctor if you exhibit these 3 telltale herniated disc signs. He or she may recommend a combination of non-surgical treatment options to help decrease inflammation and relieve the pain.

See Non-Surgical Treatment for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

Learn more:

Diagnosing a Lumbar Herniated Disc

Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


  • 1.Slipped Disk: Overview, National Library of Medicine, PubMed Health. Oct. 9, 2014. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072656/.
  • 2.Ma D, Liang Y, Wang D, et al. Trend of the incidence of lumbar disc herniation: decreasing with aging in the elderly. Clinical Interventions in Aging. 2013;8:1047-1050. doi:10.2147/CIA.S49698.
  • 3.Schroeder GD, Guyre C, Vaccaro A. The epidemiology and pathophysiology of lumbar disc herniations. Seminars in Spine Surgery. Volume 28, Issue 1, March 2016, Pages 2-7. Lumbar Disc Herniation. doi:10.1053/j.semss.2015.08.003.