Spinal discs are cartilaginous cushions located between the vertebrae in your spine. These discs are designed to absorb shock and allow your spine to bend and rotate. Everyday wear in tear or injuries can cause these discs to become damaged, resulting in pain in your back and legs.
A disc bulge is precisely what it sounds like. It occurs when the disc is bulging outward from the spine, but it doesn’t protrude outward enough to qualify as a herniated disc. You may not feel pain from a bulging disc, but it can cause pain when the bulging is significant enough to press on the nerves in your spine.
Disc bulges are an extremely common occurrence, even in healthy young people. Most radiologists will note this as an incidental finding, but it is usually not a cause for concern. You can have bulging discs and not have any back pain symptoms at all. When you get an MRI on your spine, the radiologist will be able to determine if the bulging disc is a problem or if it is normal.
Also referred to as ruptured discs, herniated discs occur when the disc bursts open. Pressure on the disc, over time or as the result of a trauma, can cause it to rupture, which can be extremely painful. Treatment options for herniated discs range from physical therapy and medication to spinal surgery, depending on the severity of the injury.