Collapsed disc prevention and treatments

A collapsed disc is a disc that has shrunk or deteriorated due to constant compression from the surrounding vertebrae. This is often the result of a degenerative spine, which is the natural deterioration process of the spine over time.

Discs in the spine are natural shock absorbers that rest between the bony vertebrae. Discs have two main components, an outer fibro-elastic layer and an inner soft, gelatinous core. When pressure occurs along the spinal column and pushes down on the disc, the inner fluid of the disc presses against the tough outer layer. When this happens, the tough outer layer of the disc pushes the inner fluid back into position, re-establishing the height and shape of the disc.

As the spine naturally degenerates with age, daily activities will cause repeated pressure to be placed on the discs. Think of the outer layer of the disc as a rubber band; the first few times the inner disc material pushes on the outer wall, the elasticity in the wall moves the inner fluid back into place. However, just like stretching a rubber band eventually causes it to lose elasticity, the same happens with the outer wall of the disc. When the inner fluid presses against the wall and the wall can no longer push back, the disc will begin to flatten and expand, thus losing the shape and height of its original size.

The term “collapsed disc” is actually a common, though not technical, term for spine conditions that affect the discs and cause them to become misshapen and to lose height. Conditions that are commonly associated with disc thinning or collapse include degenerative disc disease, bulging discs and herniated discs.

Risk factors for collapsed discs

Though no one can prevent the aging process, there are certain things that can be done to slow the speed of spinal degeneration. Spine health preservation measures are essentially the same as those for preserving general body health, such as:

  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Participating in low-impact, moderate exercise
  • Taking care when lifting heavy objects
  • Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet

Following these recommendations can help reduce the wear and tear placed on the spine, delaying or preventing the degenerative changes that may cause herniated discs, bulging discs, disc thinning and degenerative disc disease.

Treatment for a collapsed disc

Prevention may not be possible for some patients, especially those who are already experiencing the effects of spine degeneration. The symptoms caused by disc collapse are present only if a spinal nerve becomes compressed. Symptoms include pain, muscle weakness, numbness, spasms and tingling. Many patients gain relief from these symptoms with conservative treatments like pain medications (over-the-counter or prescription), physical therapy and hot/cold therapy.

However, some patients require more advanced treatment for spinal pain. For these patients, treatment options like minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute may be the best course of action to find pain relief.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer several minimally invasive surgeries to help treat patients with a collapsed or damaged disc. Our most common surgery for this condition is a minimally invasive discectomy, which removes a portion of the damaged disc that is extended into the spinal canal and pinching a nerve root. However, if the collapsed disc is no longer offering the proper spacing between the surrounding vertebrae, we may recommend a minimally invasive discectomy and stabilization, which includes the replacement of the collapsed disc with an artificial disc to stabilize the spine and decompress the pinched nerve.

Our minimally invasive surgeries offer safer, effective methods of treatment compared to traditional open back surgery. To date, our procedures have earned a 96 patient satisfaction score^ and have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain.

To learn more information about how our minimally invasive procedures can help treat your collapsed disc, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request an MRI review from our spine care experts.