Conservative collapsed disc treatment plans frequently include specific exercises. The goal of these exercises is maintaining flexibility in the spine and throughout the body, and increasing core muscle strength. Core muscles assist in carrying the weight of the body, thereby reducing stress placed upon discs. Low-impact aerobics, stretching and other exercises are likely included in a typical treatment plan. Other conservative measures include pain medication, hot/cold therapy, physical therapy, etc. Understanding the symptoms of a collapsed disc often helps the patient maintain the dedication required for a successful outcome in conservative treatment.
Intervertebral discs provide shock absorption between the bony vertebrae. Discs have two main components, an exterior fibro-elastic containment rim and an interior soft gelatinous core. When axial loading pressure occurs along the spinal column, each disc’s central gelatinous core squeezes outward against its fibro-elastic containment rim. The elastic recoil of the containment wall pushes the gelatinous core back into position, re-establishing a healthy height and shape for the disc. As a person ages, regular daily activities cause repeated loading pressure on the disc. As the disc gives way, small tears can develop in the fibers of the fibro-elastic outer containment wall. This causes some loss of the disc’s ability to snap back into place or recoil. This means the outer disc containment wall can no longer push the central core material back into shape as effectively. The outer containment wall sags, bulges or collapses. Everyone experiences these changes with aging. Yet, most changes are completely asymptomatic. Symptoms only arise when neural tissue is compressed by the changes in the disc’s outer containment wall.
The most common symptoms associated with a collapsed disc include:
- Localized pain in the area of the nerve compression
- Pain that travels the length of the nerve being compressed
Minimally invasive treatments
Collapsed disc exercises and other conservative treatments are often effective in managing symptoms, but some individuals can’t find relief through these methods and instead turn to surgery. If pain persists with conservative treatments, surgery may be required to address the neural compression. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that are more effective alternatives to traditional open back surgery.