Bulging Discs vs. Herniated Discs: Understanding the Difference

Bulging Discs vs. Herniated Discs: Understanding the Difference

Medical terminology is incredibly important. Without it, specifics turn into generalizations and misunderstandings crop up in conversation. Terminology and jargon exist to clarify, rather than complicate or confuse. Unfortunately, even when specific terminology is used, it can be confused by patients who default to generalization. Such is the case with a bulging disc versus disc herniation.

The chief problem with herniation versus bulging discs is that the two have nearly identical symptoms and present similarly to the untrained eye. Both cause localized pain and nerve infraction, and they’re even treated similarly by a chiropractor. It’s important to understand the difference, however, to understand the consequences each has on stability and wellness.

Commonalities and differences

Disc herniation and bulging have commonalities in their roots and in their outcomes that make them especially difficult to discern amongst untrained professionals. Some of the core comparisons that can be made between the two include:

  • They both present in pain and tenderness;
  • They’re caused by inner cartilage movement;
  • They cause nerve impediments and nerve pain;
  • They tend to occur more in the cervical and thoracic spine.

The similarities stop there, however. While the presentation and the treatment may be from the same playbook, the nature of each injury is important enough to make the two discernable as individual ailments. Here’s how they differ:

  • Bulging discs protrude, while herniated discs rupture;
  • Bulging discs are more common, herniated discs are less common;
  • Bulges are caused by consistent pressure, herniation is caused by trauma;
  • Bulging discs create dull radiating pain, herniated discs cause sharp, intense pain.

The two are closely aligned, however it’s the severity that separates them. Bulging discs are more passive in their pain and can be treated with incremental adjustments, while herniated discs often require aggressive adjustment to alleviate intense pain and infraction.

Repercussions of injuries

The true nature of each injury is in how it affects the spine and your overall wellness. Bulging discs are most commonly associated with their chronic pain, which fails to dissipate with time unless treated appropriately. Herniated discs are more severe, with disc fluid actively spilling from the disc to affect the surrounding nerve tissue.

If left unchecked, bulging discs often result in intermittent nerve blockages and postural issues. Herniated discs will devolve into permanent nerve damage and a host of issues stemming from the nerves affected. Long-term consequences could include limited mobility or loss of feeling from the affected nerve area.

Distinguishing the ailment early

The reason Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) is essential to distinguishing disc bulges from herniation is because it takes into account the entire body, including all symptoms present. For example, a CBP analysis of a patient may reveal tingling in the fingers and sharp, acute pain from the thoracic spine, indicating herniation. Likewise, the patient may speak about dull aches in the low back and down the legs, indicating sciatic pain that can be traced to a bulging disc. It’s this total approach that puts CBP front and center in making the right diagnosis.

Ideal Spine knows that making the right initial diagnosis is imperative in presenting the right action plan. From adjustments to exercises, it all depends on the nature and severity of the injury. CBP provides the first stepping stone in understanding where to go next, especially in conditions that may only appear to differ in vernacular.

Chiropractic BioPhysics® corrective care trained Chiropractors are located throughout the United States and in several international locations. CBP providers have helped thousands of people throughout the world realign their spine back to health, and eliminate a source of chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, chronic headaches and migraines, fibromyalgia, and a wide range of other health conditions. If you are serious about your health and the health of your loved ones, contact a CBP trained provider today to see if you qualify for care. The exam and consultation are often FREE. See for providers in your area.

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