In everyday life, the terms of bulging, herniated and prolapsed discs tend to be used interchangeably. However, it must be noted, that all of these three terms refer to three separate conditions, that lead to changes in the spinal discs.
Although there may be some overlapping effects, causes, or symptoms between the three of them, there are also distinguishing features about each condition.
1.) Bulging Disc:
A bulging disc is a condition in which the entire disc becomes compressed and bulges out of its place. However, in this condition, the nucleus (inner disc tissue) of a spinal disc remains contained within the annulus fibrosus (outer portion), unlike a herniated disk in which the nucleus leaks out of the disc.
Symptoms of a bulging disc include:
- Muscle spasms or cramping
These will depend on the region of the spine where the affected disc has irritated a nerve, and led to compression of spinal nerves, in turn causing nerve root pain. Nerve pain can occur anywhere along the spine, but it is most common in the lower back.
2.) Herniated Disc:
A herniated disc is a condition in which the annulus fibrosus (outer portion) of the vertebral disc is torn, enabling the nucleus (inner portion) to herniate or extrude through the fibers. It usually occurs on the sides of the back and presents itself as a partial crack within the disc’s shell.
- Pain and numbness, that occurs most commonly on one side of the body
- Pain that extends to the arms or legs
- Pain that worsens at night or with certain movements
- Pain that worsens after standing or sitting
- Pain when walking short distances
- Tingling, aching, or burning sensations in the affected disc area
3.) Prolapsed Disc:
A prolapsed disc, commonly referred to as a slipped disc, occurs when the gel-like, inner disc material of an intervertebral disk bulges or seeps through a weakened region in its hard outer casing. In this case, there is a major or total crack of a disc that has occurred, representing the prolapsed part of the slipped disk.
- In severe cases, loss of control of bladder and/or bowels, numbness in the genital area, and impotence (in men)
- Pins and needles, numbness or tingling in one or both arms and/or legs
- Pain behind the shoulder blade(s) or in the buttock(s)
- Pain running down one or both arms and/or legs
- The location of these symptoms depends upon which nerve(s) has/have been affected. In other words, the precise location of the symptoms helps determine your diagnosis.
- Weakness involving one or both arms or legs
Diagnosis and Treatment
As previously stated, because there are some overlapping symptoms between the three conditions addressed in this article (mainly due to the fact that all of them can place pressure on the nerve roots and lead to pain), it is imperative to seek medical advice and obtain a diagnosis to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.
In some cases, the cause may not be related to disc problems, but rather to other issues such as sciatic nerve compression, cauda equina syndrome, or other spinal cord and nerve root disorders.
In order to diagnose any of these conditions, the specialist will begin by conducting a physical examination, and asking relevant questions about your medical history and symptoms that you experience. Sometimes, a physical examination may not be enough to diagnose the exact cause of your problem, and you might need to have additional tests such as MRI scans, or CT scans.
Treatment for Herniated, Bulging and Prolapsed Discs
Typically, symptoms for herniated, bulging and prolapsed discs are approached in any of the following manners:
- Anti inflammatory medication to temporarily manage the pain, but not treat it.
- Physical therapy
- Spinal surgery, which may cause more issues than it treats, and should only be reserved for extreme cases
- However, if you want a more efficient treatment method consider the following:
Thousands of patients worldwide have been treated successfully with our innovative Backrack Spine System
Because damaged discs may occupy additional space in the spinal canal (whether it’s in the lumbar spine, thoracic spine, or cervical spine), they may lead to spinal cord or nerve compression. The reason why the Backrack is so efficient at relieving you symptoms it that it helps restore the natural space between your vertebrae, which has been caused by any of the disc damage types, whether it is disk herniation, prolapse, or disc degeneration.