What causes a collapsed disc?

The term “collapsed disc” is commonly used to describe a condition that causes a disc in the spine to lose height or shape.

The spinal discs provide cushioning and proper spacing between the vertebrae, allowing spinal nerves to pass between them. Various spinal conditions, including herniated discs, bulging discs and degenerative disc disease, can cause a disc to lose height and/or shape. When this occurs, the space between the vertebrae decreases and spinal nerves may become compressed or pinched.

Causes of a collapsed disc

A collapsed disc can develop due a series of degenerative conditions, meaning conditions that develop as the spine naturally deteriorates and weakens with age. These degenerative conditions can include:

  • Herniated disc — This condition occurs when the jellylike interior of a disc extrudes through a tear in the disc’s tough exterior. The tear can be caused by degenerative changes that occur as a person ages or as a result of traumatic injury.
  • Bulging disc — The causes of a bulging disc are similar to those of a herniated disc. With this condition, however, the interior of the disc remains contained within the outer fibers, but the disc becomes flattened and extends beyond its usual perimeters.
  • Degenerative disc disease — As a person ages, the spinal discs can become weaker and lose water content. When this happens, the discs tend to lose height and the space between the vertebrae can become smaller.

Other causes of a collapsed disc include sudden injury or trauma that causes the disc to flatten and change shape.

Symptoms of a collapsed disc

Symptoms are typically experienced when the space between the vertebrae becomes so narrowed that nearby spinal nerve roots are compressed. When a spinal nerve is compressed, patients can experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling
  • Burning sensation
  • Limited mobility

When these symptoms begin, you should schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss the treatment options available to help you find pain relief.

Treatments for a collapsed disc

Many physicians begin treatment for a collapsed disc with conservative therapies such as pain medication and hot/cold therapy, among other nonsurgical options.

If these treatments provide little to no relief after several months, surgery may be recommended.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer patients a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open spine surgery. To date, our procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain.

Ready to take the next step on your journey toward pain relief? Contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures.