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.
While the collapsed disc itself does not cause pain, symptoms can occur if the loss of height leads to irritation or compression of nerves in the spinal column. Symptoms can begin in the spine and radiate through the nerve pathway, extending into the upper or lower extremities. Specific symptoms can include:
- Muscle weakening or slower reflexes
- Numbness or tingling
- Limited mobility
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a collapsed disc or you are researching potential causes of your pain, it is important to educate yourself as a patient. This information will help you work with your doctor who can recommend the best treatment option based on the cause of your collapsed disc and your 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 presses through a tear in the disc’s tough exterior. If a considerable portion of the inner fluid pushes into the spinal canal, a loss of disc height can occur.
Treatments for a collapsed disc
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 or no relief from these treatments may be recommended to undergo surgical treatment. If you are faced with the decision to undergo spine surgery for a collapsed or damaged disc, contact Laser Spine Institute today.
Our minimally invasive spine surgery offers patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ To treat a collapsed disc, our surgeons can perform either a decompression or stabilization surgery. A minimally invasive decompression surgery is performed through a less than 1-inch incision and removes the spinal anatomy, such as herniated disc material, that is causing a pinched nerve. A minimally invasive stabilization surgery, also performed through a small incision, removes the entire damaged disc and replaces it with material, such as a bone graft, to stabilize the spine.