Age and its contribution to a slipped disc

A slipped disc is usually a term referring to a spinal disc’s tough outer layer tearing and pushing inner disc material into the spinal column. This condition is typically referred to as a herniated disc or ruptured disc by doctors. For many people, a slipped disc can remain asymptomatic, but if the disc material compresses a nerve, symptoms of pain, tingling and numbness can develop.

Contributors to a slipped disc can include anything from overexertion and poor posture to traumatic injury and disease. However, probably the most common underlying cause of a slipped disc is simply the natural degeneration of cartilaginous tissue caused by aging.

How do our bodies change as we age?

As we age, our bodies change in a variety of ways, and the spine is no exception. In the case of a degenerative spine, development of a slipped disc is gradual and may include the following factors:

  • Bone density. Due to the loss of calcium and other minerals, bone density gradually decreases as people age, especially in Caucasian or Asian women over the age of 50. If vertebrae become weak and unable to support the spine’s movements, this added pressure falls on the intervertebral discs.
  • Cartilage dehydration. With the aging process comes the general dehydration of soft tissues, like skin and cartilage. Water loss causes the spinal discs to become brittle, inelastic and susceptible to slippage or disc herniation.
  • Tissue ossification. As people age, ligaments can undergo ossification, which is a gradual thickening and hardening due to calcium deposits. While an abnormally thickened ligament may not directly cause a slipped disc, this does contribute to the overall loss of spinal flexibility, which in turn exerts extra pressure on the discs.

Relieving the pain of a slipped disc

If your doctor has diagnosed you with a slipped disc, work with your health care professionals to plan conservative treatment that works for you. This could include massage, exercise, physical therapy, pain medication, or epidural steroid injections. Healthy lifestyle choices like losing weight and quitting smoking can also help to improve your symptoms. If weeks or months of these nonsurgical methods do not relieve your pain, contact Laser Spine Institute.

Our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed on an outpatient basis by using a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques to access the spine. This lets our patients enjoy a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complication compared to a traditional open back surgery.

Reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to help you determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.