A diffuse disk bulge occurs when a spinal disk extends beyond its normal bounds between spinal vertebrae, Mayo Clinic states. Diffuse disk bulges are considered a natural element of the spine aging, and they are not to be confused with similar but more painful spinal irregularities.
Diffuse disk bulges occur naturally due to the composition of spinal disks, notes Mayo Clinic. A disk consists of two layers of cartilage surrounding the spinal cord between spinal vertebrae. These disks are flexible enough to allow for spinal movement, but also wear down over time. A disk eventually bulges when the tougher, outer layer of the disk extends beyond its normal position between two vertebrae. It is uncommon for a bulging disk to cause pain.
Herniated or slipped disks are not to be confused with diffuse disk bulges. A herniated disk results when the outer layer of the disk is ruptured somehow, allowing the softer inner layer of cartilage to slip through. This condition is more often painful than a diffuse disk bulge, but is not always a source of pain, according to Mayo Clinic.
Symptoms of a diffuse disk bulge or similar disk injury include numbness or tingling in the extremities, explains the American Spinal Decompression Association. More severe cases are evidenced by sharp pain traveling through the shoulder and down the arm. In either case, consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment options.