What is a collapsed disc?

A collapsed disc is a common term used to describe a disc in the spine that has lost its height or shape and is creating weakness within the spine.

This condition can also be called by several other names, including degenerative disc, herniated disc or bulging disc. While the collapsed disc itself does not cause any pain (although it can lead to other problems in the spine), a variety of pain and symptoms can occur if the collapsed disc expands out into the spinal canal and presses against a nerve root or the spinal cord. Symptoms can begin in the spine and radiate through the nerve pathway, extending into the closest extremity, like the arm or leg. Such symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Muscle weakening or slower reflexes
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Limited mobility

The first step to find relief for these symptoms is to schedule an appointment with your physician and determine the cause of your condition. This information will help your doctor recommend the best treatment option based on the cause of your collapsed disc and your pain symptoms.

Causes of a collapsed disc

A disc can lose height and shape for a number of reasons, but the most common cause is the natural weakening of the spine with age. The aging process can lead to a number of conditions that affect the discs, such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease — After years of continued wear, discs can dry out and shrink, which can reduce the height and shape of a disc and cause the surrounding vertebrae to lack support.
  • Herniated discs — A herniated disc occurs when the gel-like center of a disc (the nucleus pulposus) presses through a tear in the disc’s tough exterior (the annulus fibrosus). If a considerable portion of the inner fluid seeps into the spinal canal, a loss of disc height can occur.

Treatments for a collapsed disc

Because a collapsed disc is often caused by age, there are several conservative and surgical treatments available to help alleviate the pain and symptoms of this condition.

Conservative treatments are often used first for degenerative conditions affecting the neck and back. These treatments include prescription or over-the-counter pain medications, heat therapy, bed rest and physical therapy.

Patients who receive little relief from these noninvasive treatments may require surgical treatment. If you are faced with the decision to undergo spine surgery for a collapsed or damaged disc, contact Laser Spine Institute.

Our minimally invasive spine surgery offers patients a safer, more effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. To treat a collapsed disc, our surgeons perform either a decompression or stabilization surgery, though many patients are able to find relief through a decompression procedure. A decompression surgery is performed through a less than 1-inch incision and removes a small piece of the damaged disc that is pressing on the nerve root. A stabilization surgery, also performed through a small incision, removes the entire damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc and/or bone graft to stabilize the spine.

Both procedures offer our patients a lower risk of complication and shorter recovery time^ than experienced with traditional open neck or back surgery.

To find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.