What Is the Difference Between a Herniated Disc & a Bulging Disc?

What Is the Difference Between a Herniated Disc & a Bulging Disc?

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Herniated disc and bulging disc are often considered the same condition, but they are not. They both cause back pain, but the herniated disc is more severe, while the bulging disc is more common.


Discs are between the vertebra in the spine and act as shock absorbers and cushions. They help with the flexibility of the spine. They are hard on the outside and mushy on the inside.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc happens when the hard outer layer cracks and the mushy gel seeps out. The gel can crowd the nerves and cause severe pain. Herniated disc can be caused by twisting or wear and tear over years.


The symptoms for a herniated disc are numbness, weakness and pain in the area where the nerve travels if a nerve is involved. With no nerve involvement you may experience a backache or no pain.

Bulging Disc

A bulging disc occurs when the hard outer layer is intact but the disc is pushing out of its normal space between the vertebrae. You may or may not have nerve involvement.


With nerve involvement, you may have tingling, numbness and pain to the back, legs or arms. If nerves are not involved, you may have no pain or a backache.


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