Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

The lesser-known but important differences

People use the terms bulging disc and herniated disc interchangeably, without knowing the stark differences between the two.  Unfortunately, some doctors will use these terms as if they were the same ailment. BUT KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!  Both a bulging disc and a herniated disc can feel identical, but they do not always respond to treatment in the same manner.

Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

Bulging discs are more common & can happen easily

Bulging discs can happen at any time when the spine may be unstable. A casual twist or tweak from getting something out of the back seat, lifting up a child, or bending to tie your shoes can cause a bulging disc. A bulging disc is like a balloon, if you use your hands to compress the balloon, the balloon squeezes through your fingers.  But when you take that pressure away, the bulge goes away and the balloon returns to normal.

Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

Herniated discs are often the result of a more serious injury

A herniated disc is usually very different in the method of injury. A herniated disc is like a jelly doughnut; if you squeeze that doughnut hard enough the jelly comes out, and it’s very difficult to get the jelly back into the doughnut.  This is one possible type of herniated disc. There are others that we will discuss in a later article.  Herniation typically occurs after a significant injury, like a fall from a high ladder onto your feet, a high-impact car accident (50 MPH+) or even from having the same bulging disc one too many times!

Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc

Chiropractic can help both types of disc problems

If there is a true disc issue, then both of these problems will respond very well to chiropractic.  A bulge should heal in a shorter period of time. A herniation will heal more slowly, as there is a need to strengthen and stabilize the disc to decrease the occurrence of a reinjury in the future. 

Sometimes, in rare cases, the disc may not respond as well as hoped. An MRI might be needed to see if the patient has another type of herniation.  Often, if a disc herniation isn’t corrected in time, it may lead to surgery. But if it is taken care of quickly, the chances of surgery are reduced significantly!

For questions related to bulging or herniated discs or how chiropractic services can help, please contact Porterfield Family Chiropractic