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Difference Between Herniated and Bulging Disc

Herniated vs Bulging Disc

Our spine is one of the most crucial and important parts of the body as it acts as one of the main sources of our breathing, movement, sensation, and so forth. A break in it would merit us tremendous malfunctioning depending on the severity of the fracture.

Two of the most common spine problems are herniated discs and bulging discs. Tackling these two important concepts and seeing their differences may help us understand and appreciate these two spinal problems.

First, let us tackle what discs are. Discs are like pillows which act as cushions in-between the bony layer of our spine called vertebrae. Discs are being sandwiched together by these two bones which act to prevent friction from one another. These discs are made out of hard cartilage which surrounds the outer layer of the discs. The inner layer of the discs contains a soft cartilage in the center. This inner layer looks like a jelly which is also sandwiched by two bones.

So you already have a picture of what a disc looks like. Now is the time to differentiate between the two. Bulging discs occur when the discs occupying their space have extended their radius from between the two vertebrae. Thus, the disc bulges beyond its point of reference where it normally should be in place. Just imagine a burger patty that is too big for its bun. That is what a bulging disc looks like. The layer of the disc that bulges is the outer tougher cartilage. Bulging discs are said to be normal. It is considered as part of the aging process. It can be seen in an MRI in every person whether they are young or old.

Herniated discs, on the other hand, occur when the outer layer of the disc breaks. When this happens, the inner layer will herniate or will fill the space that has been broken. It will also protrude out of this disc. Herniation of the inner disc also happens in a known area of the disc. This will not protrude in a bigger component of the disc.

To summarize this, bulging discs occur normally among the population. However, herniated discs may cause pain or not. If extreme pain occurs, surgery may be performed.


1.A bulging disc is the protrusion of the outer layer of the disk while a herniated disk is the protrusion of the inner layer of the disc upon the breaking of the outer disc.
2.Bulging discs are normal among the population while herniated discs can be abnormal to some experiencing excruciating pain.

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