Herniated Disc or Bulging Disc

by Dr. David Bomback

One of the most common reasons spine surgery is performed is to address herniated discs, also known as bulging discs. A second opinion can be quite helpful.


The term herniated disc, or bulging disc, is quite nebulous and very confusing not just for patients but for physicians as well.

I like to view lumbar disc herniations as a true spectrum of pathology.  There are small disc herniated discherniations and very large disc herniations.  Some of these are massive and can lead to bowel and bladder dysfunction, severe pain and weakness.   Sometimes these can be a medical emergency.  Often times however, smaller disc herniations are nothing more than a normal age-related finding.  The smaller disc herniations are often referred to as disc protrusions or disc bulges.

In contrast, the larger disc herniations are usually referred to as disc herniations, disc extrusions, or on occasion disc sequestrations.  The latter refers to a disc herniation that has broken off entirely from the disc and is free floating.

Herniated Disc: When to Have Surgery

One of the most common reasons spine surgery is performed is to address herniated or bulging discs, but surgeons try to stay away from operating on smaller disc bulges or protrusions unless they are truly impinging upon the nerve root.

An objective second opinion will help you determine if surgery makes sense given the severity of your bulging disc.

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Dr. David Bomback

About Dr. David Bomback

Dr. Bomback has excelled throughout his entire academic career. After graduating high school as salutatorian, he then graduated cum laude from Columbia College, Columbia University where he was named one of only five Rabi Scholars (for mathematics and science) in his class. He then earned his medical degree at Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons,... Read More »