A bulging disc is not the same thing as a herniated disc, according to DePuy Synthes Spine. With a bulging disc, the disc bulges out of the space it normally occupies. When a disc herniates, a crack develops on the outer layer of the disc.
The crack on a herniated disc allows the inner disc material to rupture the disc, explains DePuy Synthes Spine. A bulging disc affects more of the disc than a herniated disc. However, most people remain asymptomatic with a bulging disc. More people develop bulging discs, but a herniated disc involves a lot more physical pain.