The symptoms associated with L5-S1 disc degeneration are a sharp burning pain in the lower back possibly radiating down the outside of the leg, tingling or numbness in the associated area, pain along the side of the foot, and a diminished or absent ankle-jerk reflex, according to American Family Physician. Advanced symptoms include muscle weakness and poor muscle function in the affected leg.
The exact symptoms of L5-S1 disc degeneration vary depending on the specific nerves affected, reports Johns Hopkins Medicine. Pain from disc degeneration often gets worse when coughing, sneezing, moving or standing for extended periods. A doctor diagnoses lumbar disc disease by completing a physical examination, including reflex tests, and using scans, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scans, to pinpoint the exact location and type of disc problem.
Myelograms and electromyography are specialized tests used in diagnosing disc problems, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine. During a myelogram, a radiologist injects dye into the spinal column. An X-ray or CT scan shows the location of the dye, giving detailed information about spinal abnormalities. During an electromyography, electrodes directly measure the strength of muscle response. This test is useful to find out exactly which muscles are affected by disc degeneration and the severity of the problem.