Bulging Disk vs. Herniated Disk: What’s the Difference?

Disks are fibrous structures in the vertebrae that act as cushion between vertebrae in the spine. They are usually made up of an outer layer of tough cartilage that surrounds softer cartilage in the center. They may appear as miniature jelly doughnuts that fit the exact size of the vertebrae in the spine. The discs become weak and unstable as we age. They start to wear and tear. This causes the outer layer of the discs to bulge into the spinal canal.

Anatomy of a Spinal Disc

The spine of a group of bones known as vertebrae usually sits on rubber-like fibrous discs. Together, they make up the spinal column, which may help provide structure and support to vital parts of the body such as the neck and head.

The discs provide cushion for the vertebrae. They facilitate easy movement of the spine and the whole body. They stretch, compress, and twist in response to the body’s position. They protect the spinal cord and the nerves related to the spine.

The spine has a protective outer layer, known as the annulus and an inner core, known as the nucleus pulposus. Disc damage happens when the tender inner core of the spinal column bulges and tears through the outer layer. The severity of the condition usually depends on the cause and location inside the spine. However, in most cases, it will be accompanied by chronic or acute pain.