Herniated VS Bulging: Disc Injuries and Their Differences

Back pain is one of the most debilitating injuries out there. We don’t say this lightly. It really is one of the injuries responsible for the most heartbreak and sadness. From shooting pains, to chronic, unrelenting, searing pain, for those of us who suffer from back pain, the reality of dealing with its symptoms can be overwhelming at times. It is easy to lose a lust for life. The good news is that we’re about to tackle two of the most common back injuries: herniated discs and bulging discs. We look at why one may be confronted with these injuries and, better still, what one can do to get back to a normal pain-free life… we know how much this means to you. [….]

First off, let’s chat about what herniated and bulging discs really are. Clearly their names talk of an injury related to discs in the spinal structure, but often even that idea can become hazy upon closer inspection. With that in mind, what we’d like you to do is think of the spine as a series of building blocks in a vertical, upright tower – like a Lego tower perhaps. Imagine that each block is separated by a jelly donut. It’s a bit like your kid’s science fair project, right? Each block rests on a donut so as to take some pressure off of the one below it. The donuts, therefore, perform a very specific, very important task in the structure as a whole. Now, if we think of the spinal discs as the donuts in our spines, then we may begin to see why injuries within them – or on them – can cause structural damage, injury, and pain. 

Let’s consider what may happen if our donuts have jelly in them. In this case, if the donut experiences too much pressure from the above, then the jelly will spill out of the center of that donut. On the other hand, if the pressure is notable yet not destructive, the jelly may bulge out, not spill over. The former metaphor is a good one for thinking about a herniated disk: vital cushioning liquid is lost from a disc/ multiple discs in our spines if too much pressure is applied. Alternately, a bulging disc fits neatly into our latter metaphor: heavy pressure causes the liquid to expand horizontally, but not to leak from the disk. 

And now that we understand what both a herniated and bulging disk is, it’s time to take a closer look at each. 

Herniated Discs
Ok, so we understand that in this situation a spinal disc – or many, if serious – has ruptured, thereby causing a crack in its shell. The soft jelly-like liquid, known as cartilage, leaks from it, consequently causing a myriad of issues. Because the cartilage is no longer capable of providing adequate support to the spinal vertebrae above it, the bone itself bears down on the one underneath, thereby trapping surrounding nerves and causing the sufferer great amounts of pain. 

The uncomfortable symptoms of a herniated disc include:

  • Feelings of sharp pain in the back or down the leg.
  • Numbness.
  • Tingling.
  • Weakness in the arms and/or legs, buttocks, thighs, and calf muscles. 

Herniated discs are amongst the most painful and debilitating back injuries out there.  And, because of their sudden onset – due to force or sudden pressure – many people are blindsided by their symptoms. We’ll get to some answers for this predicament a little later on, but for now let’s move on to bulging discs. 

Bulging Discs
Unlike herniated discs, a bulging disc doesn’t produce any cracks in the disc wall. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that the discomfort is lessened. The pressure placed on a bulging disc still means that the nerves are placed under pressure, thereby pinching them in some cases. Once again, we find the following disheartening symptoms in bulging disc sufferers:

  • Pins and Needles.
  • Spasms.
  • Numbness.
  • Muscle Weakness.
  • Overactive Reflexes.

Notably, then, both herniated and bulging discs are caused by pressure. However, wear and tear on the body can make discs susceptible to these types of injuries. We often find that, while falls, accidents, and heavy lifting bring about a large number of these types of injuries, it is often the repeated actions involved in everyday activities that cause the most harm: daily heavy lifting at ones job, incorrect posture when standing, sitting, lying down, etc., twisting and/or turning sharply, and incorrect weight distribution when doing mundane activities like carrying a handbag or lifting shopping bags. 

Disc issues such as herniated and bulging discs can strike at any moment. Therefore, taking care of your back and neck becomes increasingly vital as you age – strengthening back muscles and facilitating mobility is of the utmost importance. But, for those of you who have been dealt a blow and are now suffering from either of these ailments, we have good news: physical therapy can help. In the capable hands of a professional physical therapist, the root-cause of the problem will be determined. This means, if you are suffering from either a herniated disc, a bulging disc, or something altogether different, a physical therapist will find out. Unlike methods which aim to mask the pain via painkillers or surgery, physical therapy will treat the actual cause of the problem, thereby eradicating your pain permanently and safely. With tailor-made exercises provided alongside world-class treatment, physical therapy sets you up to maintain your pain-free life at home. It really is the safest, most effective way of treating your back problems, right now. 

Life is too short to strain under the burden of a back injury. Nerve pain CANNOT be eradicated via painkillers, and the pills you’re taking may actually be a lot more detrimental than you think. We offer you a way of treating your pain safely and effectively, and not only that, we give you answers to all the questions we know you have. 

So, if you’re unsure whether you’re suffering from a herniated disc or bulging disc, or even if you just want to make sure your back is strong, mobile, and flexible enough to potentially avoid these types of injuries, then we invite you to contact us today. To find out how we can help you, and what the next step in your journey to health is, simply click the link below to ask about cost and availability. It’s time to live pain-free… and we cannot wait to help. We look very much forward to meeting you!


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