About the difference between bulging and herniated disc

Patient

Q: Ive noticed in your answers that you refer to bulging disc as (herniated disc) is there a diference. my mri mentions three herniated and five bulging disc. am i to belive that they are all herniated or not. thank you

Doctor

A:   A spinal disk is like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior. Sometimes called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk, a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer "jelly" pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior. A bulging disc has intact the fibrous outer layer that contains the softer center, but is bulging and compressing the exiting of the spinal nerve root adjacent. The herniated disc has the fibrous outer layer broken and the filling is extruded mostly toward the near spinal nerve root in the vicinity, generating compression and damage. Bulging disks are more common. Herniated disks are more likely to cause pain. But many people have bulging disks or herniated disks that cause no pain whatsoever.

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