What is the difference between a hernia and nonspecific low back pain?

By STAB1995 | How to get rid of pain | 7 Feb 2021

I am still told on a daily basis that someone has a hernia. Don't get me wrong, of course, but this is often told when it is not a spinal hernia at all. Somewhere once something went wrong in explaining what a hernia is. A hernia can be a symptom of back pain, but most back problems are not hernias. Below I will briefly explain the difference.

What does our back look like?
Before I can explain what a hernia is, you first need to know what a back looks like.

Your back looks like this: you have 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, 5 lumbar vertebrae, a sacrum and a tailbone. Almost all vertebrae have joints on both the left and right and both above and below. This allows our movements, such as bending or twisting. There is an intervertebral disc between almost all vertebrae. This disc serves to protect our spine and works against pressure and pulling forces. Around our vertebrae are ligaments that restrict movement for safety and muscles to initiate movement. Our spinal cord is located between the joints and the intervertebral disc. This is an offshoot of the central nervous system. All our nerves are connected to this like branches.

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What is the difference between nonspecific low back pain and a hernia?
A specific low back complaints are the most common low back complaints. This is actually the standard back complaint that someone is talking about if the doctor has not named a condition. This can still be very annoying, but luckily this is nothing compared to a hernia. You often get nonspecific low back complaints caused by bad postures or little movement, which means that muscles have to work more unilaterally until they start to cramp together with the ligaments. This puts extra pressure in the joints. The pressure will make the muscles extra tense, which will send signals to the nerves.

You have a hernia when the intervertebral disc protrudes against your spinal cord. This will put pressure on your spinal cord. If you will move a lot in unfavorable positions, the pressure will increase and frictions will arise. The friction can cause inflammatory reactions. The inflammation will display the symptoms of a hernia.

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What are the symptoms?

A-specific low back pain

  • Bending, sitting, lying down or standing for a long time hurts. Moving reduces the pain
  • Stiffness in the lower back
  • Radiance in one leg


  • You have pain in 1 buttock or leg
  • You can feel the pain down to the lower leg, sometimes up to the foot. It's a sharp pain.
  • Your leg may feel burning, stinging or numb.
  • Certain postures or movements often make the pain worse, such as standing.
  • When you lie down, you have less pain.
  • Many people also have lower back pain.
  • Sometimes coughing, sneezing or straining is more painful.
  • Sometimes people have less strength in their leg or feel like their leg is sleeping

Questions, feedback or ideas for new posts? Message me.

Kind regards,

Sascha Bargi BSc. Pt. & MSc. Ost. in training

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BSc. Pt., MSc. Ost. in training, Writer and a Crypto enthusiast

How to get rid of pain
How to get rid of pain

The goal of this blog is to get tips, advices and exercises on how to get rid of physical injuries like low back pain.

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