Kevin M. Moran, MD

What is the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc?

Aug 17, 2023
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A bulging disc and a herniated disc are both spinal disc conditions, but they involve slightly different structural issues within the intervertebral discs of the spine.
what is the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc?

Bulging Disc: A bulging disc occurs when the inner core (nucleus pulposus) of an intervertebral disc pushes against the outer ring (annulus fibrosus) without actually rupturing or tearing the annulus. This can cause the disc to extend or "bulge" beyond its normal boundary. It's important to note that some degree of disc bulging can be a normal part of aging and may not always cause symptoms.

Herniated Disc: A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, involves a more significant problem. In this case, a portion of the inner core of the disc pushes through a tear or rupture in the outer annulus and extends into the spinal canal. This can lead to compression of nearby nerves or the spinal cord, causing pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the areas supplied by those nerves. A herniated disc often results in more severe symptoms compared to a bulging disc.

In summary, the main difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc lies in the extent of damage to the disc's structure and the potential impact on surrounding nerves and tissues. While a bulging disc involves the outer layer of the disc protruding without a tear, a herniated disc involves the inner core protruding through a tear in the outer layer, potentially leading to nerve compression and more pronounced symptoms. Consult Dr. Kevin Moran, a board certified orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in spine surgery for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment if you suspect you have a spinal disc issue.