man holding his back with moving boxes in the background

You’re a good friend for helping someone move into their new house. After you get a whole bunch of boxes carried in, it’s time to tackle their heavy furniture. But as you lift a dresser with a partner, you feel a sharp pain in your back. Concerned, your friend suggests that you could have a ruptured or herniated disk—or is it a bulging disk? What exactly is the difference between these two problems?

Instead of guessing blindly, learn more about these issues in greater detail in the content below.

What Are Spinal Disks?

Your spine houses one of the most important and sensitive nerves in your entire body. To support and protect this nerve, your back has 33 individual vertebrae bones with a cartilage disk in between each of them. On the outside of this tiny padding is hard cartilage, which is filled with a softer, more runny cartilage substance.  

Without disks, your vertebrae would rub and grind against each other and against your spinal nerve. In other words, most of the time, you can enjoy pain-free function thanks to disks that keep everything properly cushioned and separated.

What Is a Bulging Disk?

As you age, the disks in your spine can dehydrate on the inside. With time and wear and tear, these disks can become more compressed. The outer layer of cartilage, hard and sturdy, doesn’t shrink, so it bulges over the edge of the vertebrae like an oversized hamburger patty on buns. Hanging over the side of the vertebrae, the disk can come into contact with the spinal nerve, causing pain and discomfort.

What Is a Herniated Disk?

While a bulging disk may not originate from a particular event, many times, a herniated disk follows a sudden movement like lifting a heavy object with your back instead of your legs or twisting in an awkward way.

A herniated or ruptured disk occurs when the hard outer cartilage of the disk cracks, and the soft interior spills out onto the spinal nerve. This injury usually leads to more pain than a bulging disk because the irritation and pain often come from compression resulting from the protruding disk or from inflammation caused by the injury.

What Can You Do about a Bulging or Herniated Disk?

Regardless of the disk problem you may have, your first resource for relief is the same: your chiropractor. They can provide treatment that will decompress your spine, allowing the disks to resume their normal shape and positions and taking pressure off your tender nerves.

Although your chiropractor will be able to tell you which type of disk injury you are experiencing, understanding a little bit more about each type can help you get a clearer idea of what’s happening and how you may be able to avoid future reinjury.

About the Author

Certified by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Dr. Zinovy Chukhman has top credentials you don’t find often in the industry. He is proficient in many techniques, including Graston, flexion-distraction, Gonstead, and Thompson techniques. With years of experience, he can diagnose the source of pain and provide relief. If you think you have a herniated disk in Richardson, contact his practice, AlignRight Chiropractic online or call 972-907-2800.

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