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Bulging or Herniated Disc: What's the difference?

Swelling disc or Slipped Disc

Bulging or Herniated Disc?

Your spinal column includes 24 vertebrae with soft discs between them that function as cushions or shock absorbers. In addition, the discs themselves include two parts: a difficult external layer that holds the disc together, and a gel-like interior that helps to soften the impact of walking, lifting, and other everyday activities. What triggers your pain in the back, a bulging or herniated disc? Read more to learn the distinction.


Whether it's due to a mishap, overexertion, or simply getting older, we put a great deal of wear and tear on these discs; gradually, they can become damaged. In addition, this can trigger several issues, but two of the most common are bulging or herniated discs, which are the leading causes of pain in the back-- specifically in the lower back.


What's the distinction between a bulging disc and a herniated disc?

When it pertains to these 2 very comparable conditions, it's a little complicated since people toss around terms that may or might not imply the very same thing. For example, some individuals describe a herniated disc as a "slipped" disc while others coin it a "ruptured" disc, even in medical circles, however they refer to the same condition.


The terms bulging disc and herniated disc mean 2 various things. Let's explore those distinctions.

Bulging disc in back

A bulging disc appears as simply a swelling in the disc without a tear or burst in the outer wall. It looks rather like a bubble standing out between the vertebrae. Because the inner part of the disc stays included, a bulging disc doesn't usually press on the nerves and many people do not even recognize they have an issue.


How can you tell if you have a bulging disc?

Typical signs consist of:

  • Discomfort and tightness in the neck, upper back, or lower back, depending upon which part of the spine is impacted
  • Pins and needles, tingling in the extremities
  • Muscle spasms, weak point

A bulging disc is typically the result of regular wear on the spinal column and the discs due to things like recurring pressure, regular heavy lifting, and age-related wear-- after all, the discs are meant to function as buffers in between the vertebrae.


A herniated disc, on the other hand, indicates the soft inner layer has "slipped" or "ruptured" through a crack or tear in the external layer and into an area where the nerves are.

Tingling or burning Pain in the neck or back

How can you inform if you have a herniated disc?

Many individuals experience signs such as:

  • Pain in the neck or back
  • Pain that radiates down the buttocks and legs (sciatica).
  • Weak point.
  • Feeling numb.
  • Tingling or burning experience.

You might experience some or all of these symptoms, and most people report these irritations in the arms, legs, and feet.


A Pinched Nerve?

With a herniated disc, the pain originates from a pinched nerve. When the inner part of the disc enters the area where the nerves are, it presses on the nerve, triggering swelling and irritation that causes sharp, shooting discomforts that radiate to other parts of the body, such as from the low back down the leg or from the neck down the arm. Also, physicians describe leg discomfort from a pinched nerve as sciatica.


Practically like rubbing salt in the wound, the inner part of the disc also includes a chemical that can further irritate the nerves, and the tearing of the external layer can trigger pieces of tissue to get lodged in the spine canal-- all of which can lead to more swelling and pain.


Pain can come from the real disc itself if it dehydrates or breaks to the point that it triggers instability in the spinal column (called degenerative disc disease). Furthermore, degenerative disc discomfort is generally chronic, low-level pain around the disc with periodic episodes of more extreme pain.


Will a bulging or herniated disc heal on its own?

" Overwhelmingly, disc herniations are dealt with effectively with conservative modalities. Oftentimes, physical treatment, anti-inflammatory medications, nerve discomfort medication, a nerve root injection to sort of settle the nerve swelling, are all the body needs to assist it to heal on its own.".


In the majority of cases, both a bulging and herniated disc will heal with just conservative (nonsurgical) treatment, particularly if you take things a little easier. For instance, that doesn't imply a client should turn into a lazy person-- that can make things worse and lengthen recovery time. For that reason, low-intensity activities like walking work to lower swelling and alleviate pain.



In addition, physical treatment and particular core exercises are key elements of a lot of treatment strategies, as they assist strengthen the muscles that support and protect the spinal column.

Pilates Exercise

Some other things you can attempt to help ease pain from a herniated disc include:

  • Heat/cold therapy (though patients should prevent heat for the very first 2-3 days).
  • Soft tissue massage.
  • Extending workouts like yoga or Pilates.
  • Chiropractic.


How long does it take to recover?

" For about 10-15% of patients, the body can not recover by itself and they're left with continuous pain symptoms. The most common treatment in this scenario is a microdiscectomy. This surgical treatment occurs quickly-- it takes about 45 minutes-- and most clients leave the health center the very same day.".


Many (80-90%) cases including bulging or herniated discs will recover within 2-4 months. This naturally depends on the seriousness of the injury, as well as your age and overall health. An important difference is that a herniated disc is a permanent injury that generally leads to chronic, recurring pain. This is why exercises and activities to strengthen the supporting muscles are so necessary.



In cases where the discomfort and other signs do not improve with conservative treatment within 6 weeks, our doctors might talk about surgical options with you. The most common surgical treatments to attend to a disc herniation consist of:


  • Microdiscectomy. Carried out utilizing minimally invasive methods. The surgeon gets rid of part of all of the herniated sections of the disc. Recovery time takes around six weeks.
  • Back combination. This surgical treatment involves merging two or more vertebrae to lower the movement between bones. This surgery happens when the discs are damaged due to age-related wear. Recovery time generally ranges from 3 to 6 months, as the bones need to fuse to support the spinal column.

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