Is there a difference between discopathy and disc herniation?

The spine is a complex part of the anatomy, so it is not surprising that the terminology associated with it is complex and often overlaps. Some believe that discopathy and herniated disc are two separate things, but this is not the case. Discopathy is another word for disc herniation and we use it most often as a short name for its most common form – “lumbo-sacral discopathy”.

At the same time, “discopathy” is sometimes trivially and erroneously called the condition in which a disc protrudes. These two conditions are the most common spine problems faced by patients, but it can be difficult to understand exactly what they are and how to distinguish between them. Although there are clear differences between the two conditions, which require correspondingly different treatments, the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, which is misleading.

The following is an overview of the definitions of spinal disc protrusion and disc herniation, through which you can better understand your condition and how to improve it. Use this guide to ask your doctor questions so that you can work together to make a plan for a more comfortable and active lifestyle.


What is a protruding disk?

The spine consists of segments, and between them are the so-called. spinal discs. These are soft, porous shock absorbers that protect our spine, thus allowing it to be more flexible. Each of these discs consists of a jelly-like inner part and a harder outer part, which serves as protection.

However, as the spine ages, the discs also tend to dehydrate and harden. A common effect of these dehydration and hardening processes is that the disc may compress and therefore flatten slightly. As a result, its outer fibrous part may “swell” in the spinal canal.

In this situation, it can be described as a burger that is too big for the cake we are trying to put it in. This condition is not considered pathological, but is considered to be a normal part of a person’s aging.

While bulging discs can sometimes contribute to nerve compression in the spinal canal, they are very common and in isolation usually do not cause symptoms. By itself, a protruding disc in the absence of stenosis or any other pathology rarely requires treatment.

What is a herniated disc?

Disc herniation occurs when there is a hole in the outer layer of the disc, allowing a large piece of the inside to “escape”, or when the outer layer simply becomes so thin and taut that much of the inside can migrate. in the spinal canal. Medical professionals sometimes call the first situation “extrusion” – a real disc herniation. “Sequestration” – “free fragment” – can also occur. The second case is called “protrusion” – “retained fragment”.



Once in the spinal canal, the disc fragments could cause compression of the so-called. nerve roots, and also of the spinal cord itself. Then the nerve roots become inflamed and we get radiculitis, which can be cervical, thoracic, and lumbosacral (in the waist and lumbar region). Disc herniations and protrusions can occur in the spine at any level. However, they are most often seen in the lower lumbar segments and also around the neck.

It is possible for bouts of herniated discs to bend to one side in an analgesic position – usually in the opposite direction to the hernia – during attacks of very intense pain. In this position the movements are limited, but the pain is temporarily blunted.

In the case of a larger median hernia, as well as in the case of a disc herniation above the L1-L2 level, pelvic-reservoir disorders can be observed, which involves retention or discharge of urine or spontaneous defecation, as well as acute pain in the lower extremities. Certain areas may lose their senses.

We can try to illustrate the difference between a protruding disc and a disc herniation by imagining another type of food – a donut with jelly. The protruding disc, which is slightly flattened, is like an intact donut with jelly. However, the disc herniation is more reminiscent of what we can observe if the surface of this donut is torn or broken and some of the jelly in it leaks.

Causes of “bulging disc” and “disc herniation” conditions

Part of the reason it is difficult to distinguish the condition of a protruding disc from that of a disc herniation lies in the fact that the reasons for both are similar. Both can be caused by repetitive spinal strain, poor sitting / standing position, and spinal injuries, as well as natural wear and tear, and more.

Дископатия и болки в гърба

In fact, some herniated discs were initially protruding, which worsened due to some combination of the above factors. Therefore, prevention is of particular importance. Even if only in the name of preventing the deterioration of the already existing condition, a doctor can prepare an individual program with various steps to help strengthen the health of your spine.

Conservative treatment methods, which include rest and possible analgesia, as well as a regime of physical activity and physiotherapy, often give good results. However, these measures work best in milder disc herniations, in the early stages of herniation, and in the presence of small disc herniations. More persistent pain, which cannot be improved, leads to surgery.

Similarities and differences in the symptoms of the two conditions

When the disc is herniated, it may irritate and / or begin to compress nearby spinal nerves. Such irritation and mechanical compression are among the main causes of pain and discomfort shared by patients with disc pathology. However, there are differences in the frequency and severity of the symptoms we experience with protruding and herniated discs, respectively.

Both conditions can lead to back and leg pain, tingling, numbness, motor weakness or loss to a greater or lesser extent of the ability to move, and lack of knee reflex. However, these symptoms are much more common in patients with herniated discs. Because the disc material is better retained in the protruding disc than the disc with the hernia, in the first case there is less likelihood of nerve irritation or compression.

The only way to confirm whether the disc is only swollen or herniated is by applying magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A computed tomography (CT) scan may also be done. However, even if tests confirm the presence of a herniated disc, it may still not be the cause of your pain.

Many people show MRI evidence of swelling and herniated discs, but report no pain or discomfort. The best way to find out the exact condition of your spine is to have a physical examination and talk to a doctor.

Concluding thoughts

Spinal terminology is complex and often used inaccurately, which is why people with spinal problems and complaints often have difficulty understanding it. Protruding discs and disc herniation are two separate conditions, but due to the similarity between their causes, symptoms, and effects, patients are often unsure which of the two best matches their specific symptoms.

Most patients with timely detection and proper treatment, of relatively small disc herniations can recover within 3 to 5 months. On the other hand, if timely measures are not taken, discopathy can cause permanent damage to the nerves, which over time can cause interruption of the impulses that flow through them.

The best way to be informed and competent about the health of your own spine is to do tests and examinations, as well as ask the right questions about your condition.

back pain 1

При прилагане на правилното лечение повечето пациенти с навреме открити сравнително малки дискови хернии успяват да се възстановят в рамките на 3 до 5 месеца. За сметка на това, ако не бъдат взети навременни мерки, дископатията може да причини трайно увреждане на нервите, което с течение на времето да причини прекъсване на импулсите, които протичат през тях.

Най-добрият начин да бъдете информирани и компетентни по отношение на здравето на собствения Ви гръбначен стълб е да правите изследвания и прегледи, както и да задавате правилните въпроси за състоянието си.

Exercises for disc herniation of the cervical spine

Disc herniation is usually noticed only when we begin to feel pain and cramps in the neck, back, shoulders. And when the pain becomes strong and constant, then we start looking for doctors and ways to help us cope.

What is a disc herniation?

Дискова херния и болки в гърба |

Disc herniation is a disease that affects the spine. When an intervertebral disc is overloaded, cracks may appear on its cartilaginous ring, through which the soft jelly-like mass of the disc comes out and enters the spinal canal, causing irritation to the nerve endings and causing pain and difficulty moving.

The pain that causes a disc herniation of the cervical spine is sudden and sharp and most often occurs unilaterally in the shoulder or neck.

If left untreated, the disease can cause a number of additional health problems such as immobility, paralysis, disruption in the blood supply to vital areas of the brain, changes in the diameter and elasticity of the arteries, and more.

What are the methods of non-surgical treatment?

The first thing to do if you experience such pain in the shoulders or neck is to seek qualified medical help. It is necessary to consult a neurologist to make sure that you are correctly diagnosed and that you are prescribed adequate treatment.

If your condition has not passed into the critical phase, in which your only way out is surgery, then you have several options to alleviate your condition:

* therapeutic massage;

* active rest and relaxation;

* physiotherapy;

* hydrotherapy;

* taking analgesic medications;

* combination of healing exercises (which we will discuss in a little more detail).

What you need to know before moving on to physical therapy and exercise?

The fight against cervical discopathy is complex and is conducted on several fronts, but if the disease is in an early stage, most often specialists recommend taking appropriate analgesics and doing exercises.

Подготовка за женски упражнения |

Popular exercises for disc herniation of the cervical spine

Important! Do the exercises only after consulting a neurologist, and if you do not have swelling or do not feel severe and sharp pain!

# Lie on the floor with your legs straight and folded. Spread your arms out to the side, shoulder-width apart. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, tilting your head as far as you can towards your chest. Exhale and return your head to its original position. Repeat the exercise 10 – 12 times. Do it slowly and carefully and if you feel pain stop the exercise.

# Lie on one side with your legs bent towards your chest and your arms outstretched. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, lifting your head off the floor and tilting it toward your shoulder. Repeat the exercise 10 – 12 times. Lie on the other side and repeat again.

# Sit cross-legged on the floor. The torso should be straight, the legs should be bent “in Turkish” style. Take a deep breath and tilt your head first to the left, then to the right, up and down. Repeat 10-15 times.

# Sit on the floor, straighten your back and cross your legs in “Turkish” style. Without turning your head, look to the left, then to the right several times. Without changing your position, place one hand on your head and try to apply light pressure to it, and at the same time, try to counteract with your head. Do not press hard, perform this exercise very carefully and if you feel pain stop immediately.

# Get into an upright sitting position (on the floor or in a chair). Turn your head left and right, up and down slowly and carefully. Repeat the exercise several times.

# Stand up straight, with your legs together and your arms relaxed by your body. Carefully transfer your body weight forward to the floor. In this position, take a deep breath then exhale slowly while you return to the starting position. Do the exercise several times and relax.

# Stand straight again and tilt your body slightly to the floor. Bend your head as far as you can towards your chest and try to bring your arms as far behind your back as you can. Repeat 8-10 times.

# Sit on the floor or a chair, straighten your torso and relax your arms and shoulders. Pull your shoulders forward as far as you can, then slowly stretch them back. Repeat several times.

# Sit in a chair and place your hands palms down toward your thighs. Rotate the shoulder joints back and forth. This exercise improves blood circulation in the neck and restores mobility of the shoulder joint.

# Sit in a chair and place your palms on your thighs. Inhale and exhale several times. Raise your arms to shoulder level and hold for a few seconds. Raise your arms and try to gather your palms above your head. Hold for a few seconds and do the exercise in reverse order until your hands are in the starting position (palms on thighs).

# Get down on all fours, raise your head and look straight ahead. Slowly lower your head down until you feel a slight pressure in the area of ​​the spine. Stay in this position as long as you can (from a few seconds to a few minutes). This exercise helps to restore flexibility and relieve the spine.

# Exercises on a Swedish wall or lever. If you have a sports center nearby or you have a Swedish wall at home, “hanging” on the wall is also very useful in cervical discopathy. No effort is required, just find the nearest Swedish wall or lever and hang for a while. Hanging helps as the back relaxes and the vertebrae move apart, releasing pinched nerves. This relieves back pain.

Йога упражнения против болки в гърба |

Exercise has proven to be one of the most effective methods for treating and relieving neck, back, and shoulder pain. However, they are most effective if performed regularly and in combination with the treatment prescribed by a specialist.

Therapeutic exercise for disc herniation of the cervical spine gives tangible results after the first week, and if done regularly, not only relieves pain but also prevents its occurrence in the future.

Of course, if the disease has reached a critical phase, therapeutic exercise will not be able to help completely, but it can still improve your condition and help you to avoid surgery.

What results can you expect from exercise if you suffer from a disc herniation of the cervical spine?

  1. Restoration of normal blood circulation to the spine, muscles, and nerve tissues;
  2. Reduction of pain in problem areas;
  3. Reduction or complete elimination of accompanying disc herniation symptoms such as headache, tinnitus, “tingling” pain, and tingling in the hands;
  4. Normalization of muscle tone;
  5. Full or partial restoration of hand movements;
  • Prevent progression of the disease.

Basic recommendations before you start exercising

If you have the opportunity, it is advisable to start the exercises under the guidance of an experienced instructor who will give you the right guidance and monitor you.

If you decide to start exercising at home, you should first consult a neurologist. Consultation is necessary to be aware of both your condition and the exercises that are right for you.

It is best to perform the exercises in the morning, with slow movements and without straining. Although, there is no compulsory time and you can choose another time to perform the set of exercises – it is important not to do them immediately after meals or at bedtime. If you feel pain, stop and consult your doctor immediately.

Do not overdo it and do not exceed the average number of repetitions of an exercise, which is 10-12 times. Avoid jumping, weight training, and twisting.

Important! Improperly selected exercises can worsen your condition instead of improving it!