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A Spinal Disc Bulge or Herniation: What’s the Difference?

Bottom Line:

The bones, discs, ligaments, and muscles of your spine are designed to help you maintain proper spinal alignment, posture, and movement. Between each set of bones or vertebrae is a small rubbery disc. These discs act as small shock absorbers for your spinal bones and nerves. They have a tough, rubber-like outer layer called the annulus fibrosis and a soft jelly-like center that is called the nucleus pulposus. As you age or encounter injuries, the curve of your spine may fall out of alignment. This can place uneven stress on your spinal column and discs, increasing the chance of having a disc break down and herniate.

Why it Matters:

A disc herniation occurs when the outer portion of the disc ruptures (or tears) and the soft inner portion squeezes out. This type of injury can cause pain at the site of herniation, or sometimes the herniated disc can pinch a nearby nerve, causing pain that can radiate down into your arms and legs.  Similarly, a disc bulge occurs when the outer wall of the disc is weakened, but the inner portion has not yet broken through.

  • A disc herniation occurs when the inside of a spinal disc breaks through its outside wall.
  • Disc herniations often contribute to nerve compression, which can send pain, weakness, or numbness into your arms or legs.
  • By maintaining proper spinal alignment, you can reduce added wear and tear on your discs and potentially decrease the likelihood of a disc herniation.

Next Steps: 

Now that you know what a disc herniation is, be sure to stay tuned. Next week, we’ll reveal the best ways you can find natural relief. Can you guess what type of care resulted in over 90% of people with a disc herniation finding improvement within the first few months? We’ll be back next week with the answer!

Science Source(s): 


Columbia University. The Spine Hospital 2018

Herniated Disk: What is it? Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publishing 2018

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