Your doctor tells you that you have a bulging disc. You have heard the term herniated disc before. But what is a bulging disc? Are they the same? Is one worse or more serious and painful?
Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Between the bones are the discs which act as cushions between your vertebrae. The discs are composed of an outer layer of tough cartilage. In the center is a softer layer of cartilage. Many people describe the disc as a mini jelly donut because it is exactly the right size to fit between your vertebrae.
Many injuries lead to bulging or herniated discs. Discs can also show signs of wear and tear with age, and often age-related bulges or herniations remain asymptomatic until an injury occurs. As a result of trauma to the spine, the outer layer of the disc can bulge outside of the vertebrae. It looks like a donut that has been flattened or a hamburger that is too big for its bun. This condition is called a bulging disc. Bulging discs only involve the outer layer of cartilage, nothing inside the disc is affected.
A herniated disk occurs when the tough outer layer of cartilage is cracked resulting in some of the soft inner layer of cartilage protruding out of the disc. Herniated disks are also called ruptured disks or slipped disks, even though it is usually on a small area of the disc that is involved. If you think back to our jelly donut, a herniated disk is when the donut breaks and the jelly seeps out of the donut.
A herniated disk is more likely to cause pain. The herniated disc often extends out further and irritates the nerve root, causing painful irritation. An MRI is the best way to identify herniated and bulging discs. It is important to seek medical treatment for a herniated or bulging disc if it causes you pain.
If you have received a bulging or herniated disc because of an accident at work or where someone else was at fault, please reach out to us at 215-592-8080. We are here for a free consultation to answer your questions.