Can you make the diagnosis?

Greg sees that his neighbors are trying to move a new dresser into their apartment, and he offers to help them.  Together, they hoist the dresser up the stairway and get it set up.

That night, Greg wakes up with severe back pain.  When he tries to get up to go to the bathroom, he notices the pain is shooting down his left leg.

What does Greg have?

  1.  He has torn a muscle in his back.
  2.  A ruptured disc.
  3.  A urinary tract infection
  4.  A kidney stone


If you guessed 2.  A ruptured disc, you are correct!

A disc is a rubbery cushion that is between the spinal vertebra:


The disc is like a jelly donut.  The outer portion of the disc is thick and tougher.  The inside portion is soft material like jelly.

When a person has a back injury, such as from lifting a heavy object or twisting the back while lifting, the outer portion of the disc can rupture, and the “jelly” can be forced out of the disc.  That is a ruptured disc.  Then the ruptured disc and “jelly” can irritate the nerves coming out of the spine.

Sometimes a rupture disc can heal by itself over time.  But if a ruptured disc is accompanied by severe pain, pain down an arm or leg, is accompanied by weakness or numbness or loss of urinary or bowel control, then surgical intervention may be required.

A sprained or torn muscle in the back is a possibility.  There are many muscles in the back that can be injured, and these will typically heal with time.  A urinary tract infection is a possibility and can cause back pain over the kidney, but would usually be associated with a fever and burning with urination.  Kidney stones can cause severe back pain, but would be unlikely to radiate down the leg.

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