Key Differences Between a Bulging Disc and a Disc Extrusion

Three Bulging Disc and Disc extrusion differences

Although you may often hear the terms “bulging disc” and “disc extrusion” used interchangeably, it is important to note that these are two different conditions. However, before you understand these distinctions, it is vital to get an overview of the commonalities between these conditions through the following article.

Similarities Between a Bulging Disc and a Disc Extrusion

A bulging disc and disc extrusion often share the same symptoms, although the condition may not always be symptomatic. These symptoms include local or radiating pain, loss of flexibility, sciatica, numbness, weakness, stiffness, and tingling. Furthermore, both of these conditions can develop as a result of traumatic injury, excess weight, and degeneration.

Comparing The Two Conditions

The following are the differences between the two conditions:

  1. Protrusion versus herniation. A bulging disc is often referred to as a protruded disc, while a disc extrusion is often referred to as a herniated disc.
  2. Contained versus not-contained. A bulging disc is contained within the annulus fibrosus (disc wall), meaning it has not torn or ruptured. A disc extrusion, on the other hand, is not contained, meaning it has extended outside the tough outer layer of the disc after the gel-like center of the disc has torn or ruptured and leaked into the spinal canal.
  3. Asymptomatic versus symptomatic. A disc extrusion is more likely to result in symptoms, rather than a bulging disc. This is because there is more disc material that is pushed out, which can increase the chance of nerve root or spinal cord compression.
  4. By looking at your medical history, conducting a physical exam, and ordering imaging tests, a doctor can evaluate your condition to determine whether you are suffering from a bulging disc or disc extrusion and come up with a treatment regimen that is right for your spine care needs.

Bulging Disc and Disc Extrusion Treatment

To treat these conditions, conservative treatments such as physical therapy, pain medication, and chiropractic care may be effective in providing you with relief. However, if several weeks or months of these treatments have not provided you with the relief that you have been searching for, then surgical intervention may become necessary.
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