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Raleigh Chiropractor Explains Herniated Discs vs. Bulging Discs

disc injury

When talking about the spine it often comes up that a patient had an MRI and they were diagnosed with having a bulging disc or were told they have a herniated disc.  Just hearing these words can cause panic and fear in most people. Herniated or bulged discs in Raleigh can be painful and serious or can be absolutely pain-free and nothing to worry about. So I figured it would be a good thing to explain the differences between them.

Ok to get started we need to go over some basic anatomy.  First, we have the spinal vertebrae, they are protecting the spinal cord and spinal nerves of the body. Next, we have the disc, which is the shock absorber that sits between two vertebrae. The disc is made up of two types of materials. The outer part of the disc is called the annulus- it is tough and fibrous. The inner part of the disc is called the nucleus- it is soft and gel-like.

When the disc weakens, which it can do with age, repetitive stress or injury, the inner nucleus can migrate away from the center. It can migrate backward toward the spinal cord, or laterally toward the opening for one of the spinal nerves. The distinction as to whether this is a bulge or herniation lies in what happens at the outer annulus. If the outer annular fibers remain intact this migration outward of the nucleus is called a bulging disc.   If however, the outer annular fibers have become torn and the nucleus migrates to the edge of the disc and then comes through the outer fibers, the disc is now said to be herniated.

Consequences Of A Bulged Or Herniated Disc in Raleigh

Does having a bulged or herniated disc always mean you have pain or numbness? Absolutely not!  Multiple studies have shown this to be true, in fact, most people above the age of 50 have multiple disc bulges or herniations causing no pain whatsoever. So why do some cause pain and others not?  It is just like with real estate - location, location, location. If the disc bulges or herniates but it is not near any nerve tissue then you will have no pain or nerve symptoms. However, if the herniation or bulge compresses on to the spinal cord or on to the spinal nerve, then you can have pain going down your leg or down your arm or you could even have numbness and tingling in the area as well.

Now if you have a herniated or bulging disc that is pressing on a spinal nerve or encroaching on the spinal cord it does not automatically mean surgery! Often chiropractic care can help to get the pressure away from the nerve and help alleviate the pain.  Also, it is important to note that in a lot of cases the disc material that is pressing on the nerve over time can actually reabsorb back toward the center enough to not cause problems.

So I hope this helps explain a little about the differences between a bulged disc or herniated disc and also takes so fear out of being diagnosed with one. Call Ashforth Chiropractic Family Wellness Center in Raleigh today to schedule an appointment at (919) 844-6560.

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Ashforth Chiropractic Family Wellness Center
6512 Six Forks Road #103
Raleigh, NC 27615
(919) 844-6560

"My family is impressed by his attentiveness, along with the helpfulness of his staff. We’re happy to refer Ashforth Chiropractic Family Wellness Center to all of our family and friends!"

- Bianca J.

"Dr. Ashforth takes his time to explain every aspect of your treatment and makes you feel very comfortable and confident that you will make a full recovery."

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"Excellent first visit. Dr. Ashforth is very easy to talk to, kind, and professional. The office staff at the front desk was very friendly and professional."

- Alice B.

Recommended Chiropractor - White

6512 Six Forks Road #103
Raleigh, NC 27615