What is a Herniated Disc? Is it a Bulging, Ruptured or Slipped Disc?

What is a Herniated Disc? Bulging, Ruptured or Slipped Disc?

Have you ever wondered what exactly what a Herniated Disc and all these other similar terms mean? Or even if there are different symptoms and how you can treatment? I know I have..

I have recently had some serious back issues. I sought help from several health professionals and each seemed to have a different name for the problem – from herniated disc, to bulging disc, ruptured disc or slipped disc. This left me feeling confused and I began to search for more definitive answers. You may be asking if all of these names refer to a single condition or each applies to a unique situation or diagnosis. You may also wonder what brought on the sudden pain in my back. I will share the information that I found, providing links to allow you to do your own research and I will explain the symptoms, causes and possible treatments of these

Slipped Disc

The term is a a bit of a misnomer as it doesn’t refer to a disc that has moved in position, but rather an injured disk which has split, or ruptured causing tissue the soft gel-like substance found inside the disc to escape into surrounding tissues and thus to protrude through the weakened or torn tough outer wall or annulus.  This is also referred to as a ruptured, collapsed, or herniated disc that presses against the spinal cord or adjacent nerve tissues. The condition can be uncomfortable to quite painful, and the sufferer may experience numbness from the nerve compression.

A herniated disc commonly occurs in persons in their 30s or 40s, and especially those over the age of 50, as it is associated with a degeneration in the disks and a loss of elasticity, as discs begin to lose some of the water which protects the inner disc, which is part of the aging process. Persons who are obese are at greater risk due to the additional strain caused from the disks having to support more weight. It can also result from straining our back due to heavy lifting, twisting or turning from some sort of activity. It is rarely caused by acute trauma. While slipped discs most commonly occurs in the lower back, the spine or neck are other possible areas that may be affected by this condition.  It occurs more frequently in men than women, especially in those with a sedentary lifestyle or a job requiring lot of lifting and/or other physical activities.

herniated disc bulging disc slipped disc what is it

Reference: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/home/ovc-20271246


Symptoms of a Slipped Disc

​Symptoms are unique to each individual as they depend on variables such as the location of the herniation or one’s tolerance to pain. However, pain or muscle weakness may be felt in the lower back and down the legs, knees or ankle, possibly into your feet (which is known as sciatica), when lifting, sitting, bending or twisting.


Possible Treatment

  • Self caresuch as ice packs, or heat therapy, reduced activity or the ingestion of over-the-counter medications may resolve the problem within 4 to 6 weeks.

  • Change in diet – including eating less processed meats, refined sugar and grains, and reducing alcohol consumption while eating foods high in nutrients including leafy greens and healthy fats, and probiotics.
  • Accupunture– may be effective at relieving symptoms.
  • Chiropractractic treatment may re-align the disc if done properly.
  • Physical therapymay be sought in an attempt to restore the patient to normal activity. These treatments may include instruction on proper posture when lifting, walking and sitting, as well as exercise to strengthen the affected areas.
  • Surgery may be required in severe cases.


A Bulging Disc

​Is another type of injury which commonly occurs in the lower back, neck, or spine to an intervertebral disc, or cushion between vertebrae.  While similar in appearance to the ruptured, herniated or slipped disc, a bulging disc differs internally as it involves a protruding disc whose annulus remains intact or unbroken, although weakened and involving disc whose nucleus presses against this weakened wall causing it to stick out. The bulging disc is not always accompanied with the pain, tingling or numbness commonly associated with a ruptured disc, and thus. often less serious than a herniated disc, in most cases, but it still requires the attention of a trained physician as it my a symptom of deeper issues such as any one of a group of conditions involving a narrowing of the area inside the spinal canal, such as spinal stenosis, sciatica, or canal stenosis.


Symptoms of a Bulging Disc

While a bulging disc doesn’t always have the pain or discomfort generally associated with a herniated disc, sufferers may experience back pain when lifting objects, bending forward, sitting or when coughing or sneezing.

A bulging disc most frequently results from one of the following:

  • Genetic Predisposition - occurring in those with lower density and a higher degree of the elasticity in the fibrocartilaginous fibers which are found in the annulus.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – or not enough walking and other physical activity.
  • Poor posture
  • Being overweight
  • Improper diet which results in excessive inflammation.
  • Repeated microtrauma, such as poor posture during physical activity or when sitting or standing. It can thus be avoided by paying constant attention to one’s posture and changing positions regularly. Also the use of a device to support posture, like a lumbar roll, back brace or kinesio taping can assist those trying to retrain themselves in good postural habits.
  • Sudden and unexpected overload to an intervertebral disc, caused by a traumatic accident or improper exercising such a poor weight training.
 Sciatica Back Pain

Possible Treatment 

A physiotherapist is often all that is required and it is usually more conservative than required for a herniation.  Surgery is rarely needed, but consult a health care professional as soon as symptoms appear to avoid the formation of scar tissue which usually begins to form after 6 weeks or more.

With modern medicine, there is great hope for those of us suffering from problems associated with disc protrusions. Due to the risk of more serious developments, such as the formation of scar tissue or aggravated symptoms, it is necessary to consult one or more health professionals as soon as symptoms manifest themselves. While heredity may play a role in the condition, practicing good posture will go a long way in preventing the problem or alleviating future occurrences.

Related Articles:

Best Stretches to Improve Your Poor Posture 

Is Your Back Pain Keeping You Up at Night? Best Sleeping Positions for Your Back

Top 10 Most Effective Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

Products for Back Pain Relief

Lower Back Brace

TENS Units and Electrical Muscle Stimulators

Thoracic Back Braces

Posture Correctors


For More Valuable Information on a Herniated Disc

Please consult the following references: