Herniated Disc | Bulging vs. Herniating Disc – What’s the Difference?

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Bulging vs. Herniating Disc – What’s the Difference?

herniated disc

What is the difference between a bulging and a herniating disc? Many sufferers are confused, since there is no standard terminology and oftentimes people mean the same thing with both terms.

But there actually is a simple way to distinct between a bulging vs. herniating disc:

A bulging disc is where the disc is bellying out of place. Imagine a balloon that you squish on one side and it bulges out of your hands. That is pretty much what is occurring when a disc is considered as bulging.



With a herniating disc on the other hand, a similar thing is happening:  there is uneven compression on the disc, but instead of it just bulging, it is bulging and tearing. So if you think of your disc as a jelly doughnut and you put more pressure down on one side of it, the jelly of the doughnut will squirt out the other side.

Herniated or Bulging Disc Symptoms?

It is hard to tell apart the symptoms of bulging and herniated spinal discs, as they are very similar if not the same. Depending of the severity, the exact location and the type of the condition, pain or discomfort can be felt in the area itself. Additionally, if a nerve is affected, the pain as well as numbness and tingling can be observed along the nerve.

For a lumbar herniation or bulge, this means that you might feel it in the buttocks, the legs and even the feet. A tingling in the big toe is not unusual when suffering of a lumbar or lower back herniation.



Both conditions can lead to more serious disc conditions or degeneration as the patient ages. This is the reason why it must be treated very early on. After taking care of the acute pain, a personalized treatment that combines different therapy options with specific exercises can help to improve the condition.

The Right Treatment

The initial treatment will be to get rid of the acute pain associated with the injured disc. A lot of the times, an adequate rest period is already sufficient. Additionally to that, massages, physiotherapy, chiropractic care and various other alternative treatment options can help reduce the pain.

To get lasting results however, these things do not always suffice – or rather – they can be a lot more effective when used in the right combination. The long term success of a disc treatment must consider the exact origin of the condition for each patient. Did you lift a heavy suitcase or container, did you slip and fall down, or was it some other sort of accident? You think this caused your disc bulge, but a lot of times that was just the trigger, the real cause often being a weak or unbalanced structure in your back.

To figure out your specific condition, the best way is to get as much information as possible, ask help from specialists, and experiment with different treatments and exercises. By educating yourself about your condition, you can help yourself to take the right decisions or actions towards healing.


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