Some individuals are under the impression that all disc injuries are interchangeable. The truth is there are notable differences between disc conditions, and these differences will determine the best treatment, depending on whether it is a herniated or bulging disc.
Disc Conditions: What are the Differences?
In order to understand what a herniated disc is, one must understand the structure of the vertebrae in the spine. In between each vertebra is a disc made up of an outer layer of tough but flexible cartilage and an inner layer made of softer, jelly-like fluid. This cushion serves as a shock absorber for vertebra.
When the outer cartilage of the disc ruptures and some of the inner layer is pushed out into the spinal canal, it becomes a herniated disc. Also known as a ruptured or slipped disc, a herniated disc can cause discomfort and pain, particularly when pressing on a nerve root. A herniated disc, depending on its location, can also cause numbness, tingling or weakness along the legs, arms and back. It can be caused by stress on the disc from a variety of causes, such as heavy lifting, trauma or general wear and tear.
A bulging disc protrudes outside of the area it would normally occupy. A bulging disc will generally occur as a result of aging and is more common than a herniated disc. While a bulging disc is not usually painful, inflammation can sometimes occur, which can result in the need for diagnostic testing and bulging disc treatment.
Herniated and Bulging Disc Treatment Options
When it comes to a herniated or bulging disc, it’s important to remember that although different issues cause them, the treatments are very similar in nature. Correctly diagnosing the problem is the key to proceeding with treatment.
Surgery is a last resort when treating herniated discs, as there are non-surgical ways to minimize pain and discomfort. Non-surgical options include a combination of medications, injections and physical therapy. After exhausting all non-surgical treatment options, herniated discs can be treated with minimally invasive surgery.
Bulging disc treatment options vary depending on how far the disc has expanded. Typically, a bulging disc can be treated non-surgically. However, if the bulging disc worsens and advances into a herniated disc, surgical intervention may be necessary.
If you suspect you might be suffering from a herniated or bulging disc, consult your doctor to develop a treatment plan best suited for your needs.