Differences between herniated disc, ruptured disc, slipped disc and disc protrusion

If you suspect you may have a herniated disc in your back, and you’ve begun to research the condition to learn more, you may have noticed that many informational articles will use several terms to reference a herniated disc. In fact, it may seem like the terms ruptured disc, slipped disc and disc protrusion can be used interchangeably when discussing a herniated disc.

To an extent, this is true. These terms are either phases of a herniated disc or terms used to describe the same condition. Before you continue researching your condition, it’s important to have a solid foundation of understanding about what each of the terms surrounding herniated disc mean and how they relate to your pain.

Definitions of a herniated disc, ruptured disc, slipped disc and disc protrusion

A herniated disc is a disc in the spine that has torn open due to constant or sudden pressure from the surrounding vertebrae. A ruptured disc is another name for a torn, herniated disc.

A slipped disc is a common, nonmedical term that’s often used interchangeably with both a herniated disc and a bulging disc. With a bulging disc, also called a disc protrusion, the spinal disc has begun to bulge or protrude outward due to pressure from the spine, but it has not torn open. In some cases, people may refer to a slipped disc as a herniated disc, which is what can occur if a bulging disc continues to expand outward, developing a tear in the disc’s outer layer.

All of these conditions are commonly considered degenerative spine conditions because they are most often caused by the natural deterioration of the spine with age. As the spine ages, the discs within the spine become weaker and can dehydrate, leaving them susceptible to injury. Coupled with weight gain, years of constant movement and weakened core muscles, spinal discs are often easy targets for deterioration and damage. Typically, this damage begins slowly with the development of a slipped disc or disc protrusion. However, if left untreated, a herniated disc may occur.

Treatment options for a damaged spinal disc

Herniated discs and other damaged discs in the spine can often be treated through conservative methods, such as pain medication and physical therapy. In some cases, spinal surgery may be recommended especially if conservative options are exhausted without an improvement in symptoms.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Our procedures can treat common spine conditions and to date we have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. To learn more about our procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.

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