Herniated discs and bulging discs are common causes of back pain. These terms are commonly confused since they both refer to a disc injury. However, they are different conditions that can affect spinal discs. The type of treatment you might need for your symptoms depends on whether you have a herniated disc or bulging disc, so it’s important to know the difference between them.
What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc is a spinal disc with a crack in it that allows the cartilage inside it to stick out. This cartilage can press on nerves that are near it, leading to pain in the affected area. You might also develop inflammation in nerve roots in that part of your back. This condition is also known as a ruptured disc or a slipped disc.
What is a Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc is a spinal disc with an outer layer of cartilage that pushes out all around its middle. This can happen as discs become less flexible and more dehydrated with age. In some cases, the bulging only occurs in one part of the disc, but in others, the entire middle part of the disc is affected.
Symptoms of Herniated and Bulging Discs
Herniated and bulging discs can cause symptoms that can be similar, such as mild to severe pain, stiffness and tingling. You can also have pain that affects your leg when you have either one of these conditions. However, herniated discs typically cause noticeable symptoms more often than bulging discs do. A bulging disc is less likely to press on nerves or lead to inflammation compared to a herniated disc. When you have pain and other symptoms with disc herniation, they have a higher chance of being more severe or affecting you more often. In order to determine the most suitable treatment, you’ll need to have your back problem evaluated to see if you have a herniated or bulging disc.
Treatments for Herniated and Bulging Discs
Treatment options for bulging and herniated discs generally begin with conventional care, such as doing safe exercises and avoiding moving your back in certain ways. You might also find relief from non-prescription pain medications or with physical therapy. If you continue to have symptoms, especially if they become more severe, your doctor might recommend surgery. The type of procedure you might need will depend on your condition and how severe it is. Some procedures involve removing only the affected part of your disc, while others involve removing the whole disc and replacing it with an artificial one.
If you have pain that could be from a herniated or bulging disc, please contact Capital City Neurosurgery for an appointment. Our neurosurgeon can evaluate your back in order to determine the right course of treatment for pain relief.