What is the difference between a bulging and herniated disc in the spine?

December 11, 2014

2 min read

Treating a bulging or herniated disc is one of our specialties at The Center for Total Back Care. Often we get asked, “What is the difference?”. While they may seem similar they are very different conditions that require very specific approaches to physical therapy and chiropractic care.

To explain this, it is important to define what the disc is made of and its purpose. The disc acts as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. They’re outer layer of tough cartilage that surrounds softer cartilage in the center. Its design allows for mobility and protection against forces applied to the spine.

Disc outer cartilage(grey) and inner cartilage(blue)

A bulging disc extends outside its normal position in the vertabrae. The bulge is created by the outer cartilage layers stretching or breaking down. It looks similar to a hamburger(disk) in a small hamburger bun(vertebrae). Bulging usually is considered part of the normal aging process of the disc.

A herniated disc, on the other hand, results when the fibers in the tough outer layer of cartilage break and/or rupture, allowing some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disc. Herniated discs are sometimes called slipped discs.

If you have been diagnosed or suspect you have one of these conditions, contact us at 480-633-8293 to find out what treatment options are available to you!

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