What Is the Difference Between a Bulging and Herniated Disc?

The terms “bulging” and “herniated” are often incorrectly used interchangeably to describe pain related to a spinal disc. This is because both terms refer to a similar condition. Spinal disc abnormalities become a problem when nearby nerves are affected. Having a better understanding of these terms can help determine the steps you may need to take to manage discomfort after a consult with a spine surgeon in Orange County, CA.

What Is a Bulging Disc?

A bulging disc extends beyond its normal space. The expansion of the disc is often caused by age-related changes to the structure of the spine and its supporting discs and is often related to disc height collapse. It’s often the tougher outer layer that bulges or extends.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

Often referred to as a “slipped” or “ruptured” disc, a herniated disc refers to a situation where a tear develops somewhere on the disc. As a result, softer inside material pushes through the harder outside layer. Sometimes caused by age-related changes, a herniated disc may also result from a forceful impact or similar injury.

How Are They Different?

Bulging discs are more common. Even so, it’s usually herniated discs that cause pain because the inner disc material can protrude from any part of the disc and results in inflammation of the neural tissues. Narrowing of the spinal canal or spinal stenosis may contribute to pain from either a bulging or herniated disc if nerves become compressed.

How Are Bulging and Herniated Discs Treated?

It’s possible to have either a bulging or herniated disc without knowing it. When there is pain, treatment usually involves image tests to confirm the problem and conservative remedies such as medication and physical therapy. In severe cases, a patient might need spinal surgery.

Bulging and herniated discs are oftentimes related to lifestyle factors. Reduce your odds of experiencing pain from disc damage by drinking plenty of water, getting regular exercise, and including nutritious foods with anti-inflammatory properties (almonds, tomatoes, fatty fish) in your diet.

Newport Beach Spine Surgeon

If you are experiencing pain due to disc damage and are looking for a solution to alleviate your pain, Dr. Hamid Mir M.D. specializes in a variety of fusion procedures and spinal fusion alternatives. Call Dr. Mir’s office today at 949-988-7848 to learn more and schedule an appointment.