Causes of prolapsed discs include aging

The natural aging process is one of the most common causes of prolapsed discs. Over time, the spinal anatomy naturally begins to deteriorate, which can lead to a number of spine disorders, including disc degeneration. In some people, this deterioration becomes advanced and causes nerve compression, which may create a variety of chronic symptoms. If you are dealing with debilitating symptoms as a result of a prolapsed disc, a great first step in finding relief is to learn more about this condition, including underlying causes like aging.

How age-related changes cause disc degeneration

Age-related changes affect the entire body, causing everyone to experience issues over time. This is especially true of the spine due to the amount of pressure it withstands while needing to remain relatively flexible. The spinal discs, which cushion the vertebrae and allow the spine to bend and flex, can lose water and protein content, making them less able to withstand the pressure they’re being put under. These forces can lead to the development of potentially painful conditions, such as prolapsed discs.

The discs in the spine have two main components that are both susceptible to breaking down with age:

  • A tough outer shell called the annulus fibrosus that consists of tightly arranged collagen fibers. Beginning in middle age, the collagen in these fibers breaks down and the disc wall starts to split and fray.
  • Gel-like inner disc material known as the nucleus pulposus, which also contains collagen that decreases with age. The nucleus also contains water that dehydrates over time.

A prolapsed disc occurs when a tear develops in the annulus fibrosus. This tear allows the nucleus pulposus to push out of the disc and enter the spinal canal. Tears can develop in a number of ways, but they are commonly seen in older people because the disc walls tend to become brittle and thin over time, making them susceptible to rupturing. The tear itself can cause localized pain, while a variety of other symptoms can develop if the prolapsed disc material comes in contact with spinal nerves.

Treatment options for a prolapsed disc

In order to effectively treat the symptoms of a prolapsed disc, its exact cause, location and severity must be identified. While the aging process cannot be reversed, there are many treatment options available to relieve symptoms and increase spinal flexibility. Often a course of conservative treatment, including physical therapy, medication and hot/cold compression therapy can bring lasting relief. Surgery can become an option if other treatments have been exhausted without bringing the relief necessary for a good quality of life. If you are exploring your surgical options for a prolapsed disc, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering our patients a shorter recovery time with less risk of complication.^

Our dedicated team will be happy to provide you with a free review of your MRI* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.