Bulging and slipped discs, while not exactly the same thing, are in the same family of spinal problems. These injuries relate to the structural integrity of your spinal discs; the terms refer to the outward migration of the soft, jelly-like substance that is normally located in the center of the disc.
In some cases, the nucleus, as this substance is called, escapes the confines of the disc structure altogether, in other cases it doesn't.
The difference in terms is mainly a matter of degree. Sometimes a disc "blows out" all at once, which is called a disc herniation. But that's not always how it happens.
Age related spinal degeneration, a minor injury to the outside of the disc and/or other types of degeneration may result in internal only movement of the nucleus, without disruption to the container that surrounds it. This is a bulging disc.
Doctors and other spine experts use terms to describe the stage of movement or disc migration. The three main types are:Prolapse, which is essentially a bulging disc, as described above. In this type, the nucleus can be viewed on an MRI as bulging out between the spinal bones directly above and below. But the outer most layers of the disc, which is made of several rings of tough fibers strong enough to hold the nucleus in remain intact.Extrusion, where, due to a tear in the tough outer fibers, some of the nucleus is able to escape, but the nucleus remains connected to the central part of the disc.Sequestration, otherwise known as a herniated disc or, in layman's terms, a slipped disc, occurs when some or all of the nucleus not only escapes, but is disconnected from the disc as well.
Bulging and slipped discs, as well as extruded discs, can occur in any of the three main regions of the spine. In other words, these injuries happen in the neck, upper or mid-back and in the low back. They don't affect the sacral or coccyx regions as there are no intervertebral discs there, and occur only rarely in the thoracic spine.
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