A collapsed disc occurs when an intervertebral disc loses height or becomes misshapen. This can occur as the result of a number of spinal conditions, including bulging or herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. When a disc loses height, the distance separating adjacent vertebrae (the bony structures in the neck and back) decreases, and a spinal nerve or the spinal cord may become impinged.
When neural tissue is compressed, patients may experience pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the neck, back or extremities. Many patients find relief from these symptoms with medication and other conservative treatments.
Most doctors begin treatment of symptoms caused by a collapsed disc with medication. These may include one or more of the following:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – These medications can provide relief by reducing inflammation, which may help to relieve pressure placed on a compressed spinal nerve.
- Corticosteroid injections – Like NSAIDs, these medications help to reduce the pressure placed on an impinged nerve by reducing inflammation. This approach, however, involves injecting the drug directly into the affected area. Steroid injections often provide relief for weeks or even months.
- Antidepressants – Patients with a collapsed disc may become depressed because of the lifestyle changes that chronic pain can cause (such as the inability to work or a reduced sex drive). Some physicians may prescribe antidepressants to help patients cope with these changes. Some antidepressant medications are also believed to raise natural pain tolerance.
Prescription pain medications and other conservative treatments, such as hot and/or cold therapy, intermittent rest and physical therapy, may also be prescribed.
Effective outpatient procedures
Patients who fail to respond to these non-invasive treatments may require surgery. They should determine the least invasive, efficacioussuccessful surgical treatment possible. Minimally invasive outpatient procedures performed by the orthopedic surgeons at Laser Spine Institute are more effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery when treating collapsed discs. Contact Laser Spine Institute for additional information and for a review of your MRI or CT scan.