Aging and torn discs often go hand-in-hand, due to the changes that can occur as a person grows older. Years of wear and tear can take its toll on the spine and elements of the neck and back can begin to deteriorate. All intervertebral discs experience a certain degree of degeneration, which can increase risk of the development of a torn disc.
Degenerative Changes in Intervertebral Discs
Between the ages of 30 and 50, a person’s intervertebral discs can begin to change. The cartilaginous exterior of a disc (the annulus fibrosus) can begin to weaken, which in turn provides less support to the bony structures in the neck and back (the vertebrae). The jelly-like center of a disc (the nucleus pulposus) can begin to lose water content, which makes the disc less flexible and also provides less support. A weakened annulus fibrosus is susceptible to cracking, which can allow the nucleus pulposus to seep out and enter into the spinal canal. When this occurs, a patient may experience severe pain, muscle weakness, spasms, and tingling if the herniated disc material comes into contact with a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord itself.
Treatments for Torn Discs
A number of treatment options are available for torn discs, including the following:
- Pain medications
- Hot and/or cold therapy
- Physical therapy
- Behavior modification
- Nutritional supplements
If these conservative and alternative treatments fail to provide relief, a physician or back specialist may recommend surgery. Many individuals may be hesitant about open back surgery and its lengthy recovery. If this sounds like your situation, we invite you to learn more about the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Contact us to find out more about our safe and effective procedures, and to receive a free MRI or CT scan review.