What Is the Difference Between a Bulging Disc and a Herniated Disc?

Santa Rosa chiropractor Dr. Kyle Yoder finds that one of the most commonly misunderstood health conditions that he diagnoses and treats are bulging discs and herniated discs. Did you know there’s a difference between these two conditions–and that there’s actually no such thing as a “slipped” disc? Keep reading to learn more and to find out how a chiropractor can help you.

The Difference Between A Bulging Disc & Herniated Disc

Between the bones of your spine, you have small discs filled with a soft gel-like substance (called nucleus pulposus) and covered by a tough cartilaginous layer (called the annulus fibrosis). These discs are important for shock absorption, spinal mobility, and for allowing space for spinal nerves to exit the spinal cord (where they’ll go on to innervate other parts of the body).

Sometimes, abnormal pressure, movement, or spinal joint alignment can squeeze and put pressure on a disc (either in the neck, mid-back, or low back).  When a disc bulges, the nucleus pulposus literally bulges outward into the surrounding space. If a disc herniates, the nucleus pulposus actually breaks through the tough outer layer and leaks into the surrounding area. In both cases, this can lead to pressure on nearby spinal nerves, muscles, and other connective tissues, leading to a variety of symptoms including neck or low back pain; pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in a limb (depending on which nerve is affected); and impaired spinal mobility.

Both bulging and herniated discs can be caused by one of the several factors, including:

  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Arthritis
  • Sports- or work-related injury
  • Poor posture or body mechanics
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Car accidents

You may also be more likely to have a disc problem if you smoke, are overweight, or are sedentary.

Does Treatment Differ For These Two Spinal Disc Conditions? 

Even though a bulging disc and herniated disc are different phenomena, both conditions respond positively to many of the same chiropractic care techniques. Treatment focuses on restoring the disc’s natural alignment, nourishing and healing the disc, relieving pressure on surrounding structures, reducing pain, restoring normal motion, and preventing recurrence. This can be achieved through chiropractic adjustments, non-surgical spinal decompression, trunk stabilizing exercises, and even massage.

In general, herniated discs do tend to present with more severe symptoms, and may take longer to heal. But take heart that natural, non-invasive, and drug-free techniques like those offered at the Dr. Kyle Chiropractic Center can and do make a difference for hundreds of people every year!

Looking For Back Pain Relief In Santa Rosa?

Call Dr. Kyle Chiropractic Center Today at 707-527-7100! We also proudly serve nearby California communities including Sebastopol, Windsor, Rohnert Park & Bennett Valley. We look forward to meeting with you!

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