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What is the Difference Between a Slipped Disc and a Bulging Disc?

Jul 30, 2018

2 women do yoga to stay active over 50

Oftentimes, when someone refers to a slipped disc, they are probably trying to describe a herniated or ruptured disc, which is a disc that is broken in some way.  A bulging disc, on the other hand, is not necessarily a focal problem. As we all age, our disc heights become more narrow and our discs tend to bulge.  So, when you get an MRI when you’re 50 years old, the Radiologist is likely going to talk about a lot of bulging discs and that is completely normal.   

A disc is in the front, or anterior, joint between two bones. The disc is just a cushion between the bones but it’s not a really soft cushion. It is more like a tire in that it resembles hard rubber and only bends slightly. It’s also, in some regards, like a jelly donut.  The outside is pretty tough and the inside is pretty soft.  Over time, the outside of the tire can get some wear and tear because it takes a lot of abuse. Just like your other joints get stiff with age, so does that joint.  At some point, you may get a little tear in the edge of the disc, but it won’t require any major surgery. But, when the soft portion of the disc ruptures out through the outside, that’s a ruptured disc.    

That is important because right behind the disc is the spinal canal, and that’s where the nerves travel up and down. They go from your brain all the way through your body, out to your arms and your legs.  They’re like the power cords that run the motors in your body.  If you have a piece of that disc that squirts out and it happens to go backwards towards the nerves, it can pinch one of those extension cords.  If it pinches the extension cord, then wherever that extension cord goes is going to hurt or feel weak or numb.   

You could have an ankle or a foot that doesn’t work properly and with pain that runs down through the buttocks and a numb big toe. A neurosurgeon should be able to tell what your problem is. If it is a very specific spot, a surgeon can go in with a microscope and un-pinch that nerve and give it a chance to heal.   

Most disc herniations are not surgical. But, if you have weakness in your bones, it’s probably a good idea to see a surgeon and get the process started. This is because when a nerve is pinched, they don’t heal as reliably as our skin and bones. So, the sooner you have surgery, the better chance you have of your nerve going back to normal and your numbness or weakness subsiding.  

If you are experiencing a bulging or slipped disc, contact Back Pain Centers of America today to find a doctor in your area that specializes in your specific problem. Call 844.201.1308 or visit our website to learn more.  

 

 

 

 



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