Collapsed disc diagnosis — an overview

Whether you have been recently diagnosed with a collapsed disc or are researching this condition because you believe it is a potential cause of your pain and other symptoms, learning more about this condition and the diagnostic process can be helpful. We hope the following information can make you a more engaged patient who can work closely with your doctor to find the lasting relief you deserve.

The first step in the diagnostic process for spine conditions like a collapsed disc is typically the discussion of a patient’s medical history and the symptoms being experienced. A physical exam will likely follow that involves testing for nerve function, muscle strength and reflexes. Imaging tests like an X-ray, CT scan or MRI may follow so the doctor can confirm loss of disc height that is causing nerve compression.

Causes and symptoms of a collapsed disc

To better understand this condition, it is important to have a basic overview of spinal anatomy. The spinal discs sit in between most of the spine’s vertebrae, absorbing shock and allowing them to bend and flex. Spinal discs, like other parts of the body, are subject to natural wear and tear as we age. This process can be accelerated by certain postures, activities and genetic factors that affect the spine. Eventually, degeneration of the discs can lead to the breakdown of the tough outer wall that supports them, allowing the discs to lose elasticity and height, which is typically diagnosed as a collapsed disc.

Without a healthy disc to cushion them, the surrounding vertebrae may move closer together, causing compression and irritation to the spinal cord or the nerve roots that exit out of the spinal column. When the thinning of a disc traps a nerve root and causes it to signal pain and other symptoms along the path of a nerve, patients will often consult with a doctor to diagnose the underlying cause.

Treatment options

Depending on the person and the severity of his or her condition, treatment options may include a combination of physical therapy, lifestyle changes, therapeutic massage, anti-inflammatory medication and spinal injections. Conservative options are very often effective, but surgery can be considered if weeks or months of conservative treatment has not brought the relief necessary for a good quality of life.

Patients considering their surgical options for a collapsed disc should reach out to the caring and dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering a streamlined outpatient experience and less risk of complication compared to traditional open neck or back procedures.^

We’ll be happy to help you receive a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.