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Here are the two primary differences between a disc protrusion and a bulging disc

A protruding disc and a bulging disc are two very similar conditions. Both are related to natural degeneration of the spinal discs that make them less able to hold their shape while cushioning the vertebrae in the spinal column. They can also both cause painful and debilitating nerve compression, which can be disruptive to everyday activities.

If you have received a diagnosis for one or both of these conditions and are wondering what the difference is, speak to your diagnosing physician for clarification. By better understanding what makes these two conditions distinct, you can be more engaged in this conversation and put yourself in the best position to receive effective treatment.

Differences between disc protrusion and a bulging disc

These conditions are enough alike that they are often used interchangeably by doctors, but there are differences. While both involve an intact spinal disc that is bulging out of its normal position in the spinal column, there are two key differences:

  1. These conditions have different circumferences. A disc protrusion is typically classified as a disc with less than 180 degrees of the disc displaced, while a bulging disc is more than 180 degrees.
  2. These conditions may cause different symptoms. While every case is different, bulging discs have the potential to compress a wider range of nervous tissue compared to a disc protrusion. For example, a bulging disc is more likely to cause radiating symptoms on two sides of the body by causing compression or irritation of both sets of nerve roots exiting the spinal column.

Treatment for a protruding or bulging disc

Like most degenerative spine conditions, treatment for disc protrusion or a bulging disc will begin with a course of conservative treatment options including rest, medication, physical therapy and hot/cold compression. If you are being recommended for surgery after fully exhausting these and other treatments, contact USA Spine Care. We are the leaders in minimally invasive spine surgery and have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief since 2005.

For a no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our caring team today.

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