Should You Go To Urgent Care For A Herniated Disk?
In many cases, Urgent Care is a good place to start when diagnosing and treating a herniated disk. Over 3 million cases of herniated disks are reported in the US every single year. Pain caused by a herniated disk can be extreme and require medical attention. Majority of the pain is usually not in the back, but instead in the legs or arms.
If you have an HMO insurance plan, you’ll need to visit a regular care doctor to receive a referral for a spine specialist. If you are insured under a PPO plan, your insurance is more likely to cover a visit with a specialist and you do not need a referral. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to get an appointment. Neurosurgeons and spine specialists book up weeks and sometimes even months in advance, but you’re in pain right now—so what do you do?
Visiting Urgent Care for a Herniated Disk provides several benefits:
- Undergo scans to diagnose the pain—is it really a herniated disk or is something else to blame?
- Perform a series of in-office tests to help determine the cause of back pain and the location of the herniated disk. For instance, you might be asked to extend your arm, make a fist, or resist force.
- Obtain a recommendation to see a specialist.
- Set up a treatment plan to help you feel better and return to normal as soon as possible.
What is a Herniated Disk?
A herniated disk develops when the soft fluid stored at the center of each spinal disk spews out through a crack in the spin’s hard outer exterior casing. In some cases, it causes no pain and you don’t even know anything is wrong.
If the liquid pushes up against a nearby nerve, a herniated disk can cause debilitating nerve pain that lasts over a month. Nerve pain causes discomfort, numbness, and/or weakness in the arm(s) or leg(s), depending which part of the spine is impacted. The liquid eventually dissipates in the body, at which point it stops pressing against the nerve and life can return to normal. It may still take time to build strength in your arms or legs and some patients require physical therapy.
If the pain does not go away within 2-months, it’s more likely that surgery is necessary. Other treatment options include physical therapy, medication, and steroid shots.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disk
The symptoms of a herniated disk vary depending on the affected portion of your spine. This injury can impact the top of your spine, right near or in your neck, or all the way down to lower portions of the spine. A herniated disk in the upper spine generally impacts the arms and shoulders, while a herniated disk in the lower spine impacts the legs.
C4-C5 Herniated Disk Symptoms:
- C5 nerve root impingement
- Shoulder pain
- Numbness/tingling in the arm(s)
C5-C6 Herniated Disk Symptoms:
- C6 nerve root impingement
- Weakness of biceps
- Weakness of wrist extension muscles
- Pain, numbness and tingling that runs down the arms and through the thumbs
C7 Herniated Disk Symptoms:
- C7 nerve root impingement
- Weakness of the triceps
- Weakness of the extension muscles in fingers
- Pain, numbness and tingling that radiates down the triceps and into the middle finger.
C7-T1 Herniated Disk Symptoms:
- C8 nerve root impingement
- Weakness of hand, difficulty gripping
- Pain, numbness and tingling that radiates down the arm and through the pinky finger
Should you go to the hospital for a herniated disk?
There’s almost no reason to visit the hospital for a herniated disk. At times, the pain is severe enough to make you think otherwise but it’s not worth the hefty cost that comes with a hospital visit. Not to mention, hospital wait times can extend for hours and no one with a herniated disk wants to sit in a waiting room for that long—sitting in a chair for a couple minutes is bad enough with a herniated disk.
Your best bet is to visit urgent care, your regular care doctor, or a spine specialist. All these providers can order the appropriate scans, conduct tests to determine the location of a herniated disk, and put you on a recovery plan. In most cases, a herniated disk will resolve itself, but if the pain is causing you to lose sleep or miss work, visit Urgent Medical Center today to get on the road to recovery.