Many patients often hear the terms “bulging disc” and “herniated disc” used interchangeably when, in fact, they describe two different conditions. The intervertebral discs are specialized cushions that rest between the bones of the spine or vertebrae. They consist of a thick gelatinous center that is covered by a sturdy membrane. The discs help protect the vertebrae from the shock of movement and keep them from rubbing against each other. Intervertebral discs also help protect the spinal cord and contribute to the flexibility of the spinal column.
Today, the board-certified back and neck doctors at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration of Los Angeles are going to look at some of the key differences between the commonly confused bulging and herniated discs.
A bulging disc refers to a protrusion of the disc that extends beyond the limits of the vertebrae, and in a bulging disc, the gelatinous contents remain contained within the fibrous wall of the structure. The condition can be caused simply from the aging process that weakens the bones and causes an instability, which results in a bulge. It can also occur when the spine is stressed from repetitive lifting and bending, from injury during sports or accidents, in patients who use tobacco and alcohol, and in those with a genetic predisposition.
A herniated disc occurs when a break in the membrane allows the gel center to leak through into the spinal column. Herniated discs are also often referred to as “slipped” or “ruptured” discs. Often the condition is caused by a simple progression of a bulging disc, though in some cases it can occur from a traumatic event such as a fall or other injury.
Bulging or herniated discs often have similar symptoms, and sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Nerves are often irritated or compressed by the protrusion which can cause pain at the site, numbness and tingling, weakness or an inability to move arms or legs depending on the location of the bulge or herniation on the spine.
In both cases of bulging or herniated disc, surgery such as spinal decompression surgery may be the best option for minimizing pain and reversing the effects of the affected disc. When this is the case, it is extremely important to work with a professional and certified physician who can properly determine the type of disc problem and provide the solution that offers the best possible outcome.
If you suffer from a bulging or herniated disc and are looking to explore your treatment options, reach out to The Spine Institute Center of Spinal Restoration today. As a leading spine surgery center in Los Angeles, we have a team of experienced and professional orthopedic spine surgeons, interventionists and specialists who can help you determine which non-surgical or surgical option will best meet your individual needs. Call us today at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation.