Is it a Herniated Disc or a Bulging Disc?

Is it a Herniated Disc or a Bulging Disc?
October 25, 2013

What is a Bulging Disc?

There are two main parts of a vertebral disc, the inner nucleus and the outer annulus.  Through repetitive injury, or the degenerative aging process, the outer shell of the disc may become weaker and more susceptible to injury.  When this occurs excessive force on the disc could cause it to bulge in one of these weakened spots. When this happens the bulge may come in contact with a nerve exiting the spinal canal, or other tissues causing pain and neurological symptoms.

What is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc is similar to a bulging disc, but instead of causing a bulge, instead, the inner material of the disc seeps through a crack or tear that has formed in the outer shell.  This material may cause inflammation in the surrounding tissues leading to local pain.  The same symptoms of a bulging disc may occur if the material presses on a nerve exiting the spinal canal.

Treating a Bulging Disc

In extreme cases a bulging disc may require surgical intervention but often times conservative treatment methods are able to strengthen the damaged area of the back and bring the condition under control.  Early treatment for a bulging disc includes rest, ice and heat, and anti-inflammatory medications.  If symptoms persist physical therapy that incorporates exercise and stretching into the recovery may be required to build core muscle strength and improve the support  to the spinal column.

Herniated Disc Treatment

Anti-inflammatory medication, ice and heat, along with rest are early treatments for a herniated disc.  If the inflammation persist, corticosteroid injections may be delivered to the directly inflamed area to provide stronger relief.  Although surgery for a herniated disc is not usually required to have a full or partial recovery, if after 6 – 8 weeks of therapy fails to provide relief, surgery should be considered.

Herniated Disc Surgery

Herniated disc surgery is usually accomplished through a procedure called a discectomy.  At Atlantic Spine Center we offer an endoscopic form of discectomy that provides faster recovery than a traditional open discectomy. By utilizing an endoscopic approach, there is no need for an overnight hospital stay.

An endoscopic discectomy procedure involves the surgeon inserting a tube through a very small incision with which he or she can manipulate their tools as well as visualize the disc with the aid of an endoscope (A small camera that relays live video onto a monitor screen). Once the damaged disc is located and visualized, the surgeon uses a grabber (or a laser) to remove the herniated material and seal the disc.

Recovery from an endoscopic discectomy is generally quick.  You can expect to be back to work and performing your usual activities within a week or two. 

If you suffer from a herniated disc and are uncertain if you are a candidate for an endoscopic discectomy, we offer a free online tool to determine if your condition qualifies you for it.  Click here to check if you are a candidate.