What is the Difference Between a Herniated Disc, Slipped Disc, Bulging Disc, and Ruptured Disc?

The terms herniated disc, slipped disc, bulging disc, and ruptured disc are sometimes used interchangeably. This can make it difficult for those experiencing back pain who want to better understand their condition.

In some cases, there is no difference. A herniated disc, for example, is a disc in the spine that has been torn after experiencing immense pressure from the vertebrae it sits between. When the disc is torn, the fluid inside can begin to leak out. The same thing happens when a disc ruptures, making a ruptured disc and a herniated disc the same thing and allowing both terms to describe the same condition.

What are BulgingĀ Discs?

Bulging discs are discs that have just started to bulge or extend outward from the spine. While this also happens when a disc starts to experience pressure from the surrounding vertebrae or the spine, bulging discs have not yet torn or broken open, so they are not the same thing as herniated or ruptured discs. Bulging discs are sometimes also called protruding discs.

Of all the terms that describe back pain and pain associated with damaged discs, the term slipped disc may be the most misleading. Some may think this term means that the disc situated between the vertebrae has slipped out of place. However, discs are firmly attached to the vertebrae and they do not move or slip on their own. Rather, a slipped disc often refers to a ruptured or herniated disc that has torn open causing the fluid inside to slip out into the spinal canal.

What is the Cause of Disc Pain?

A herniated disc, slipped disc, and ruptured disc can all refer to the same condition. This is when the disc between vertebrae is so damaged that it has torn open and fluid has leaked out. A bulging disc on the other hand, has experienced damage as well, but in this case, is still intact. This can make bulging discs easier to treat.

Most injuries to the spine begin with a bulging disc but the condition can progress into a herniated disc if left untreated. For this reason, it is very important that anyone experiencing pain in their back, particularly along the spine, see a doctor who can examine them and discuss their treatment options.