Collapsed disc in the neck — causes, symptoms and treatments

A collapsed disc is a spinal disc that has lost height or shape due to constant pressure from the surrounding vertebrae, often as a result of the natural aging process.

Specifically for patients with a collapsed disc in the neck, this condition can potentially prevent you from enjoying daily activities like driving or even sleeping. Nerve compression from a collapsed disc can result in localized pain, pain radiating the length of a nerve into the upper extremities, as well as sensations of numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

If you have been diagnosed with a collapsed disc in the cervical (upper) region of the spine that runs through the neck, it is important to educate yourself as a patient. The following information can help you work more closely with your doctor to develop an effective treatment plan for a return to normal comfortable activity.

What is a collapsed disc and what causes it?

The discs in the spine are natural shock absorbers between the vertebrae, allowing for smooth movement with every pivot, movement and force that the spine undergoes throughout the day.

In a healthy spine, the elasticity in the disc’s outer layer could endure the bending and move the disc back into place. However, over time the elasticity wears down, and the disc begins to flatten or lose height under the pressure. This is a collapsed disc.

A collapsed disc also may allow the vertebrae to rub together. Bone-on-bone contact stimulates bone spur development. Displaced disc material, bone spurs and the vertebrae themselves all can be causes of nerve compression, also known as a pinched nerve. This pressure on neural tissue is the primary cause of the symptoms generated by many degenerative spine conditions.

Treatment options

If a collapsed disc is causing pain and other symptoms in the neck, shoulders and arms, physicians usually prescribe a treatment program consisting of various conservative nonsurgical methods. These can include:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • Chiropractic care

These treatments are often very effective in managing symptoms, but they don’t work for everyone.

If weeks or months of conservative options do not provide the relief necessary for a good quality of life, surgery may become necessary. If this is your situation, you should research the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures include minimally invasive decompression surgery as well as minimally invasive stabilizations that are an alternative to traditional fusion procedures.

Because we approach these surgeries with minimally invasive techniques, our patients can experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication than patients who choose traditional open spine surgery.

For more information about the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.