What causes NUMBNESS or WEAKNESS in a foot or hand and why pain is a bad emergency signal

When a disc herniates, the disc nucleus can push outward through the disc wall and impinge and put pressure on a nearby nerve root that branches off from the spinal cord.

When that happens with a lumbar disc in the LOW BACK, the symptom might be pain that radiates into the flank or even pain that radiates into a foot. For a herniated disc in the NECK, the symptom might be pain that radiates into an arm, or even down into the hand. With the symptom of RADIATING PAIN, the person CAN USE WATCHFUL WAITING for a few weeks to see if non-surgical treatment options, like spinal injections, can provide relief without surgery. It will be very uncomfortable as the symptom of searing pain in a leg, foot, arm or hand can be extremely disabling. But radiating pain is not necessarily an emergency signal.

This is NOT the case with NUMBNESS or WEAKNESS in a foot or hand. This weakness can also be seen when the person is unable to lift the front of the foot when they walk. This is called FOOTDROP. These are all EMERGENCY SIGNALS that you need to see a spine surgeon within 48 hours, or this numbness or weakness could become permanent. The reason is that the disc is putting excessive pressure on the nerve root causing “neurological deficit”. If you don’t remove the pressure on the nerve root, it could be permanently damaged. Another emergency signal is LOSS OF CONTROL OF BOWEL OR BLADDER. Most people don’t associate this symptom with their back problem, but this can be an emergency signal where the disc has herniated and is compromising the area of the spinal cord that controls your bowel or bladder function. This symptom is extremely serious and you need to see a spine surgeon within 48 hours.

Again, YOU CANNOT USE WATCHFUL WAITING FOR NUMBNESS, WEAKNESS OR LOSS OF CONTROL OF BOWEL/BLADDER. You need to see a spine surgeon within 48 hours to prevent the symptom from becoming permanent.


Maahir Haque, MD is recognized as a leader in the field of minimally invasive spine surgery. At Spine Group Orlando, Dr. Maahir Haque also provides second opinions for spine surgery and MRI reviews for those with back pain and neck pain. Dr. Haque emphasizes non-surgical options for back pain and neck pain where possible. This can include accessing a back pain specialist with expertise in pain-relieving spinal injections and spine therapists. Spine therapy can include back stretches that can be a future home remedy for back pain or neck pain. If spine surgery is necessary because of a herniated disc, spinal fracture, or spinal stenosis, Dr. Maahir Haque operates through tubular retractors that reduce the size of the incision, lessen blood loss, reduce time in the hospital, speed return to activity with a less painful recovery. This spine surgery expertise enables many patients to have outpatient spine surgery and be home the same day. Spine Group Orlando and Dr. Maahir Haque provides artificial disc replacement in the neck using the Mobi-C disc implant, the first FDA-approved disc for multiple levels in the neck. Prodisc-C is also used for artificial disc replacement in the cervical spine. Dr. Hacque is also one of the few spine surgeons in Orlando, Florida to provide lumbar artificial disc replacement using the Prodisc-L artificial disc. Dr. Hacque is also referred patients from across Orlando and north central Florida for artificial disc replacement surgery as an alternative to spinal fusion. Accordingly, Dr. Haque's patients travel from across north central Florida, including: Orlando; Jacksonville; Tallahassee; Lakeland; Gainesville; Tampa; Daytona Beach; and Cocoa Beach. The spine center, as a destination for medical tourism for some international patients from Mexico and the Caribbean, can provide recommendations to out-of-town patients on nearby hotels and tourist attractions.