Do Disc Bulges Become Disc Herniations?

We have been providing treatment for bulging and herniated discs in downtown San Francisco for almost 20 years now. One of the more common questions that comes up is what is the difference between a bulging and herniated disc, and if a bulging disc is destined to become a herniated disc?

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Here is what the Mayo Clinic has to say about the difference between a bulging and herniated disc (disk):

Disks act as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. They’re composed of an outer layer of tough cartilage that surrounds softer cartilage in the center. It may help to think of them as miniature jelly doughnuts, exactly the right size to fit between your vertebrae.

A bulging disk extends outside the space it should normally occupy. The bulge typically affects a large portion of the disk, so it may look a little like a hamburger that’s too big for its bun. The part of the disk that’s bulging is typically the tough outer layer of cartilage. Usually bulging is considered part of the normal aging process of the disk and is common to see on MRIs of people in almost every age group.

A herniated disk, on the other hand, results when a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage allows some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disk. The protrusion of inner cartilage in a herniated disk usually happens in one distinct area of the disk and not along a large component of the disk, which is more typical of a bulging disk. Herniated disks are also called ruptured disks or slipped disks.

Bulging disks are more common. Herniated disks are more likely to cause pain. But many people have bulging disks or herniated disks that cause no pain whatsoever.

My Take: I do believe that bulging discs are more prone to disc herniations than normal discs or degenerated discs. After-all, there is already a breakdown in the structure, most likely due to abnormal wear and tear from long standing spinal misalignment’s and spinal degeneration.

The solution is to maintain a healthy spine with regular exercise, chiropractic adjustments, plenty of rest, and a healthy diet. And if you are diagnosed with a bulging disc, consider nonsurgical decompression with the DRX9000, which can repair the disc naturally and help prevent disc herniations in the future.

Dr. Eben Davis is clinic director of San Francisco Spinal Decompression. To schedule an appointment call 415-392-2225. Ask for a complimentary consultation.

Directions to our San Francisco Spinal Decompression Center

Scott Calzaretta

Chiro-Medical Group is an innovative collaboration of health care professionals who work together as a team to promote optimal health. Our group includes experts in the fields of medicine, chiropractic, physical therapy, massage, nutrition, and personal athletic training.

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