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Key differences between a disc extrusion and bulging disc

A disc extrusion and a bulging disc are both spinal conditions that can occur when one of the discs becomes damaged. If you’ve been diagnosed with either of these conditions, you may be wondering exactly what the difference is between them.

Some key differences to help you distinguish between these conditions

In many cases, individuals are not aware that they have either of these conditions. Symptoms will only appear if the damaged disc comes in contact with a nerve root or the spinal cord, which will result in pain, muscle weakness, tingling, numbness and other symptoms that extend along the pathway of the nerve. Because the symptoms can be the same, it can be difficult to understand the underlying distinctions between these conditions. However, two key differences include:

  1. The severity of the damage. A disc extrusion involves more damage than a bulging disc. However, a bulging disc that continues to deteriorate may eventually become a disc extrusion.
  2. The outer wall of the disc. A bulging disc has weakened to the point of becoming misshapen and typically has a “bulge” in its tough outer wall. By contrast, an extruded disc has developed a tear in the outer wall and allowed some of its inner gel-like contents to escape.

A disc extrusion goes by several other names as well. Your physician may use the term disc extrusion, herniated disc, torn disc or herniated nucleus pulposus, all of which refer to the same condition. If you are unsure about any terms your physician uses, be sure to ask for clarification so you have a better understanding of your condition.

Spinal disc treatment at USA Spine Care

USA Spine Care provides minimally invasive spine surgery to treat a wide variety of spinal conditions, including both bulging discs and extruded discs. If your physician has recommended surgery as the best option for you, our outpatient procedures may be a clinically appropriate alternative over traditional open spine surgery.^ Contact us today for more information. When you do, we will be happy to provide a free review* of a recent MRI to help determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.

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