A bulging disc and a herniated disc are two different conditions, although both can be quite uncomfortable. When it comes to finding a long-term solution for your pain, knowing what condition is responsible is essential. Although only a physician can provide an official diagnosis, the following information can help you learn more about what might be causing your symptoms.
The difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc
When a disc protrudes out of its normal position in the spine, but the disc’s tough outer wall (annulus fibrosus) is still intact, it is said to be a bulging disc. If the annulus fibrosus has ruptured and the disc’s soft inner core (nucleus pulposus) has started to leak out into the spinal canal, it is known as a herniated disc. While many herniated discs originally begin as bulging discs, not all bulging discs become herniated.
Bulging disc and herniated disc symptoms
On their own, these conditions are not always painful. However, if a protruding disc or herniated disc material makes its way into the spinal canal, it can compress a nearby nerve root. Sometimes, it can even compress the spinal cord itself. This can cause localized pain and tingling, as well as pain that travels along the path of the affected nerve. A bulging disc that develops at the top of the spine can cause symptoms in the arms and shoulders, while a damaged disc that occurs in the low back can cause symptoms in the lower extremities.
Treating pain caused by an out-of-place disc
In many instances, it’s possible to manage these symptoms with a combination of conservative (nonsurgical) treatment methods, such as over-the-counter pain medications, hot/cold therapy and strategic rest. If, however, these options do not produce the desired results, surgery might become an option.
At USA Spine Care, we perform minimally invasive bulging disc surgery using muscle-sparing techniques. If your pain has not improved with conservative treatment, contact us today to learn more about our advanced outpatient treatment options for neck and back pain.