Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc: Understanding the Key Differences

Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc: Understanding the Key Differences

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

You’ve leant in to the boot of your care to get something when a sudden twinge of pain makes you grab your back and go weak in the knees…

Sound familiar? Lifting, pulling, pushing… no matter the cause, you should have a constant awareness of your spine and the effects of these actions on your back. Having an understanding of how bulging discs and herniated discs come about are a great start to avoiding them.

Understanding your spine

A bulging disc and a herniated disc are two common conditions that affect the spine.

The main difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc lies in how the inner layer of the spinal disc protrudes. A bulging disc occurs when the outer layer of the disc weakens and bulges out, while a herniated disc happens when the outer layer ruptures and the jelly-like inner layer of the disc protrudes and may compress a nerve root causing pain, numbness, or weakness.

Understand your diagnosis

Understanding the difference between a bulging disc and a herniated disc is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Both conditions can be caused by wear and tear, poor posture, or sudden injury. A bulging disc is often a result of disc degeneration, while a herniated disc may occur due to a sudden movement that causes the disc to rupture. In some cases, a


Common symptoms of a bulging or herniated disc include lower back pain, neck pain, and numbness or weakness in the arms or legs.

A bulging or herniated disc can be diagnosed through a physical examination, imaging tests such as an MRI, and evaluating the patient's medical history.


Treatment options for a bulging or herniated disc may include chiropractic care, medication, or in severe cases, surgery. It is important to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment to avoid complications and improve your quality of life. 

The key differences

The key differences between a bulging disc and a herniated disc lies in the location of the disc.

A bulging disc occurs when the outer layer of the spinal disc protrudes outward but does not rupture. On the other hand, a herniated disc occurs when the outer layer of the disc ruptures, causing the disc to compress and possibly compress a nerve root or the spinal cord. This can lead to symptoms such as back pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area.

Severity of symptoms

The severity of symptoms between a bulging and a herniated disc can vary. A bulging disc may cause mild discomfort, while a herniated disc may cause severe pain and potential loss of function in the affected area.

How to approach treatment

The treatment approaches for bulging and herniated discs may differ based on the cause and severity of the condition.

Conservative treatments such as chiropractic care, medication, and injections may be recommended for mild cases of bulging discs, while more severe cases may require surgery such as a lumbar herniated disc discectomy or artificial disc replacement.


Is chiropractic care safe for disc problems?

Chiropractic care involves spinal manipulation and adjustments to help alleviate pain and improve function, often used in the treatment of herniated discs. Chiropractic care is safe and non-invasive option for those seeking treatment and relief from back pain cause by bulging or herniated discs.

What options do I have for treatment?

The treatment for a herniated disc may include chiropractic care, medication, injections, and in severe cases, surgery.

Is surgery my only option?

There are various myths and misconceptions surrounding herniated discs, such as the belief that only surgery can provide relief. However, this is not true when it comes pain relief. Receiving a diagnosis of the severity of your symptoms from a chiropractor or medical professional with experience in herniated discs should be your first option before thinking about surgery. Consider implementing a treatment plan with your chiropractor to best treat your symptoms.

Is it common to have severe pain?

Severe pain is a common symptom associated with herniated discs, often felt in the back, legs, or arms depending on the location of the affected disc.

What should I do while waiting for my appointment?

If you suspect you’ve hurt your back, the first step is to remain calm. Added anxiety will cause your body to continue to be in a state of fight or flight making it harder for your muscles to relax around the affected area making it harder to move in general. Maintain deep breathing through the pain while getting yourself in a comfortable position. Using an ice pack to help with any inflammation will help ease pain. In severe cases, you may need to someone to help you move.  

Consulting a chiropractor

Your local chiropractor for bulging discs and herniated discs

If you’re experience disc problems, consider contacting us, Centenary Chiropractic Centre, as your local chiro for Camira and surrounding areas. Give us a call on 07 3881 0440 or book online here: www.centenarychiro.com.au

Dr. Steve Hodal is committed to providing high-quality, individualized chiropractic care in a comfortable and relaxed environment. He is dedicated to providing evidence-based treatments that are tailored to each patient’s individual needs, allowing them to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. Contact us to know more about this disorder or Book Online.