What is a Collapsed Disc?

What is a Collapsed Disc?

The term “collapsed disc” is not a recognized medical term. It is a colloquial expression meant to refer to any loss of intervertebral disc height. Several spinal conditions can cause an intervertebral disc to lose height and decrease the space between vertebrae, although the disc does not actually collapse in most cases. However, when the space between vertebrae decreases, it is possible for a nerve traveling between the vertebrae to be pinched, leading to a host of painful symptoms.


An intervertebral disc can lose height and shape for a number of reasons, but the most common causes include the following spinal conditions:

  • Degenerative disc disease – As people age, their bodies undergo a great deal of change, and intervertebral discs are no exception. After years of continued wear, discs can dry out and shrink, which reduces intervertebral space.
  • Herniated discs – A herniated disc occurs when the jelly-like center of a disc (the nucleus pulposus) extrudes through a tear in the disc’s tough exterior (the annulus fibrosus). If a considerable portion of the nucleus pulposus seeps into the spinal canal a loss of disc height can occur.

The degenerative spine conditions that can cause a “collapsed disc” can also cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms including pain in the neck, back and extremities.


A number of treatments can provide patients with relief. Conservative treatments are often used first for degenerative conditions affecting the neck and back, including those conditions that cause a loss of intervertebral space. These treatments include prescription or over-the-counter pain medications, heat therapy, bed rest and physical therapy. Patients who receive little relief from these non-invasive treatments may require surgical nerve decompression. These patients should determine the least invasive and effective surgical treatment possible to avoid unnecessary surgical risks and consequences. The minimally invasive outpatient procedures performed by Laser Spine Institute are a more effective alternative to traditional open back surgery Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information.