What's The Difference? - Bulging Disc Versus a Herniated Disc
Imagine holding a balloon with two hands. If you press your hands together on one side of the balloon it bows out the opposite side (bulges) and if you press it hard enough it may pop a tiny hole and air will leak out (a herniation). The intervertebral discs are thinner toward the back of your spine due to the natural curvature of the spine.
The act of bulging or herniated discs occurs predominantly with three combined forces: increased forward bending, rotating and pressure or lifting. The difference in a bulge versus a herniation is the severity of the injury. When the outer layer of the disc cracks, the soft mass in the center of the disc may be forced out causing a bulging disc. If the outer layer tears open, the nucleus pulposus herniates (protrudes) outside of the disc into the central spinal canal or laterally to the right or to the left toward the small opening through which the exiting nerve root passes. Herniated discs are also referred to as ruptured discs or slipped discs. Diagnosing includes a medical history and physical examination. The diagnosis is confirmed with imaging studies such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.