If a collapsed disc in your back is diagnosed as the cause behind your painful symptoms, you’ll likely want to know more about this condition. What is it exactly, how is it caused, and how can you treat it? These are all questions worth discussing with your physician, but the following information can help answer some of your questions.
What is it? How is it caused?
Intervertebral discs are natural shock absorbers between the boney vertebrae. Discs have two main components, an outer fibro-elastic containment rim and an inner soft gelatinous core. When axial loading pressure occurs along the spinal column, the central gelatinous core of the disc squeezes outward against the fibro-elastic containment rim of the disc. The elastic recoil of the containment wall pushes the gelatinous core back into position, reestablishing the height and shape of the disc. As a person ages, natural daily activity causes repeated loading of the disc. Tiny tears may develop in the fibers of the fibro-elastic outer containment wall. This causes some loss of the disc’s outer containment wall elasticity or recoil. The outer disc containment wall can no longer push the central core material back into shape as effectively. The outer containment wall therefore sags or bulges.
A collapsed disc is a term often used synonymously with a “herniated” or “bulging” disc. However, this terminology is incorrect. All discs lose vertical height with aging. They all technically sag, bulge, or collapse. A herniated disc occurs when tears in the outer containment wall allow the inner core gelatinous material to escape into the surrounding area. Herniation is therefore a step beyond sag, bulge, or collapse. A disc may thin to the extent that adjacent vertebra contact one another, prompting the formation of bone spurs. Bone spurs, bulging discs, herniated discs, or the vertebra themselves may all compress neural structures yielding localized or radiating symptoms.
The symptoms may include:
- Localized pain
- Pain that radiates the length of a nerve, potentially into the extremities
Conservative, nonsurgical treatment modalities are usually very effective in managing the symptoms caused by neural impingement. Popular conservative treatments prescribed by physicians include physical therapy, pain medication, hot/cold therapy, exercise, massage, or any of a variety of other therapies. However, if conservative treatments for weeks or months yield little success, surgery may be prescribed. In this case contact Laser Spine Institute to avoid traditional open spinal surgery. Laser Spine Institute’s safe, effective outpatient endoscopic procedures are minimally invasive alternatives to open back surgery.