It’s common to confuse a bulging disc with a herniated disc. Both feel relatively similar, regarding the pain and discomfort, and treatment is even somewhat similar at times. Still, the two are unique and must be treated as such.
San Mateo residents owe it to themselves to learn more about the key differences between a bulging disc and a herniated disc. If you suspect one or the other, schedule an appointment. The sooner you can get in and see a doctor, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
The Differences Between a Bulging Disc and Herniated Disc
First, let’s explore some of the key differences between a bulging disc and a herniated disc. The primary distinction between them is:
- Bulging Discs are contained, as there is no rupture or tear inside of the outer layer of the disc. You may notice a small bubble distending inside of the spinal canal, though.
- Herniated discs are non-contained, which means there is a rupture or tear present in the spinal canal. A section of the nucleus pulposus has leaked and will start out as a bulging disc before worsening with time.
A bulging disc, as the name implies, is when a disc in your spinal canal begins to bulge or protrude. This condition may occur in any area of the spinal column or within any disc. Occasionally, the entire disc protrudes, not just a small portion.
The symptoms of a bulging disc typically include pain in the back, arm and leg. You may feel sensory conditions, such as pins and needles or leg numbness. Then, of course, there is muscular symptoms such as muscle spasms and weakness.
On the other hand, there is a herniated disc. Essentially, the disc along the outer layer cracks and begins to agitate the inner layer. This condition is far more susceptible to pinching the spinal cord and “slipping” into the canal. Symptoms include weakness, pain, tingling or burning.
A herniated disc is far more severe than a bulging disc, which would usually go away with minor treatment and rest. A herniated disc, however, is often severe enough to require a visit to a spine specialist. You may need an MRI or X-ray, along with a physical exam, for a diagnosis and to begin treatment.