Bulging and herniated discs are two of the most common types of disc injuries that can happen in the spine. These conditions are different, although they present with similar symptoms and often have similar causes. While poor posture, wear-and-tear, and repetitive strain can all cause both of these disc conditions, they can also be caused by trauma.
Sports injuries, slip and fall accidents, work-related and collisions caused by car accidents can all, unfortunately, cause bulging or herniated discs. The good news is, although they are quite painful, they can be treated with proper medical care and the right recovery plan.
The terms “herniated disc” and “bulging disc” are often confused. These two injuries are very similar, but they do have a few key differences.
A bulging disc is a disc injury where the disc is contained. It is not torn or ruptured, but a small portion of the disc is protruding into the spinal canal. This means the nucleus pulposus or the gel-like center of the disc, has remained in place and has not leaked out of the disc.
A herniated disc, on the other hand, has been torn or ruptured, meaning it is not contained. When a disc is herniated the nucleus pulposus actually leaks into the spinal canal. Typically, a herniated disc starts out as a bulging disc, but it creates so much pressure on the outside layer of the disc that it eventually ruptures. Typically, both herniated and bulging discs are diagnosed with an examination as well as an MRI. Additional tests and x-rays may be completed as well to check for other types of injuries surrounding the disc.
If you are suffering from back pain following a slip and fall accident, work accident, or an auto collision, then you need to see a doctor right away. You can meet with a chiropractor, your primary physician, a specialist like an orthopedist, neurologist, pain management doctor, or go to an urgent care facility, but it is important that you get your disc issue properly diagnosed so you can start treatment.
Depending on the severity of the injury and the pain associated with the herniated or bulging disc, different treatment plans may be implanted. Every treatment plan should be individualized based on the patient. In most situations, conservative treatments are the first step on the road to recovery. While surgical options can be applied to serious cases, most herniated or bulging discs can be treated without it.
Typically, standard treatment takes between four and six weeks and the focus will be on reducing pain and discomfort. Your doctor may try a variety of different treatments and a combination of pain relief along with manipulations (or chiropractic care) and physical therapy. Pain management can be as conservative as over-the-counter medication and icing at home or it can involve a pain management specialist, prescription medications and even injections.
The good news is that prognosis for bulging or herniated discs is actually quite good and many people are able to recover without any surgical intervention. If this injury was sustained as part of an accident, such as a work accident, a slip-and-fall or an auto accident, your insurance may also cover the costs of this treatment. However, you will need to make sure that in the state of New York you visit a doctor for proper documentation within 30 days of your injury. This is the best way to make sure you can find an affordable, manageable treatment plan that works for you.