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What Is the Difference Between a Herniated Disc and a Bulging Disc?

What Is the Difference Between a Herniated Disc and a Bulging Disc?

From a functional standpoint, the spine is likely the most important part of the human body; it serves as a pillar of support that allows you to stand up straight, bend down, and twist—all essential functions in both daily life as well as physical activities such as sports. A complex system of vertebrae separated by fibrous discs, the spine also plays the role of protector for the spinal cord, a network of nerve signals that allow you to run, walk, and move your body. And when your body moves, so do your spinal discs.

Your intervertebral spinal discs are made up of two parts: a jelly-like core called the nucleus pulposus and an outer layer of fibers called the annulus fibrosus. As you age, the discs in your spine will experience natural stiffening and wear-and-tear that can cause them to either bulge or herniate; however, such deterioration can also occur due to accidental impact or spinal trauma.

If you are feeling intense back pain along your spine, then you may be experiencing a herniated or bulging disc.

Differences Between a Herniated Discs and Bulging Discs

Although they sound somewhat similar, there are some key differences between a bulging disc and a herniated disc:

  • Bulging disc

    Also known as a disc prolapse, a bulging disc occurs when the pulposus breaks through the annulus and protrudes outward with the outermost layers of the annulus still intact. Even though it hasn’t broken through the outermost layer, it still protrudes to the spinal canal where it can compress a nerve root.

  • Herniated disc

    When a disc does herniate, the jelly-like nucleus pulposus breaches and tears through the annulus. Nerve roots and the spinal cord are in danger of being compressed in this instance. If a disc has gotten to herniated status, it is very close to degradation. Herniated discs can sometimes break off into free fragments called sequestered discs.

Advanced Back Injury Treatments

A herniated or bulging disc could be the cause of extreme lower back or sciatic pain. If you are experiencing such discomfort, then turn to the team of orthopaedic specialists and physicians.

Get Superior Spinal Support at Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine

At Orthopaedic Associates of St. Augustine, we’re proud to play a role in helping patients regain mobility and get back to their daily routines without pain. If you’ve experienced a spine or back injury or another type of orthopaedic ailment, our team is here to help. To schedule a consultation, please request an appointment online or give us a call at 904-825-0540.