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The Ultimate Back Pain Relief Tips Blog

Herniated and Bulging Discs – What’s the Difference?

Posted by Dr. Jeff Winternheimer D.C. on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 @ 03:25 PM

bulging disc or herniated discA disc is essentially a little shock absorber that allows for motion of the spine. Each disc is like a little rubber cushion, which works to lessen the impact on the bones that make up the spinal column from such normal things like walking and jumping. These discs are filled with a jelly like substance - known as the nucleus - that provides the cushioning element.

When the element that holds this jelly like substance in place deteriorates, a rupture can result which allows some of this substance to ooze out, thus reducing the cushioning effect, and leading to pain.

A disc disorder can be either “contained” or “non-contained.”

 A Bulging Disc is “contained.”

To be “contained” it means there is no tear or rupture within the outer layer of the disc. A bulging disc extends outside of the space it should normally occupy. This is a small bubble that bulges into the spinal canal. The bulge typically affects a large portion of the disc. The part of the disc that is bulging is usually the tough outer layer or cartilage. The gel-like interior does not leak out and remains intact except for the small bubble that pops out. 

Many may see and bulging disc to look like a hamburger that’s too big for its bun.

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A Herniated Disc is “non-contained.”

To be “non-contained” means there is a tear or rupture in the tough outer layer of cartilage allowing some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disc. When the disc herniates the gel-like nucleus pulposus may spread out to the spinal cord and spinal nerves. The protrusion of inner cartilage usually happens in one distinct area of the disc. In a bulging disc, typically, the protrusion happens in a large component of the disc. Other names for a herniated disc are ruptured disks or slipped disks. A herniated disc could of started as a bulging disc that created too much pressure on the outer wall of the disc. 

A herniated disc can be compared to a tube of toothpaste. Like a tube of toothpaste if being placed under pressure from squeezing it the toothpaste within the tube will move wherever it can. Wherever the tube is weak the toothpaste may leak out of the tube like when a disc herniates the contents spread out to the spinal cord and spinal nerves.

At the Illinois Back Institute we treat both herniated disc and bulging disc through Functional Disc Rehydration. Functional Disc Rehydration works toward relieving the pressure off the disc by allowing nutrients to flow back into the disc. In the meantime, the supporting muscles are strengthened and reactivated to help the spine become stable once again, while also eliminating tissue stress. Click on the button below and sign up today for our FREE consultation! 

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