Guide to a torn disc

A torn disc often develops after years of spinal compression and normal wear due to the natural aging process of the spine. This condition occurs as the strength of the spine slowly begins to decline. Due to years of weight gain and repetitive motion, the discs in the spine begin to lose elasticity and shape. As the surrounding vertebrae press down on the discs with each movement, a disc may eventually tear under the constant pressure, creating a rip in the tough outer layer of the disc.

Because of the degenerative nature of this condition, there are certain lifestyle habits that increase a person’s risk of developing a torn disc. While not all torn discs can be prevented, it is important to know what habits may be making you more susceptible to this condition and what you can do to attempt to prevent or postpone it through the information provided in the following article.

Risk factors for a torn disc

The natural aging process of the spine is one of the most common causes of a torn disc. Though aging is inevitable, the following torn disc risk factors can be avoided:

  • Smoking — reduces oxygen levels in the blood and deprives the spine’s discs of essential nutrients
  • Excess weight gain — places undue pressure on the spine and can promote degeneration
  • Overexertion — through high-impact sports such as hockey, football and gymnastics can lead to premature degeneration of the discs in the spine

By making these lifestyle changes, you are making a choice to increase the health of your spine, thereby increasing your chances of preventing or postponing the development of degenerative spine conditions, including a torn disc.

Symptoms of a torn disc

A torn disc can often go unnoticed unless a piece of the torn disc extends into the spinal canal and compresses a nerve root. These symptoms often include pain, muscle weakness, numbness, spasms and tingling in the neck, back and/or extremities. These symptoms warrant a conversation with your doctor about the possible cause of your nerve compression and the treatment option that best fits your needs.

Treatments for a torn disc

Many of the symptoms of a torn disc can be alleviated with physical therapy, pain medications and hot or cold compresses. However, if these conservative treatments fail to provide relief after several weeks or months, a doctor may recommend surgical intervention. If this is the case for you, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the minimally invasive spine surgery we offer for torn disc relief.

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive discectomy surgery can alleviate nerve compression by removing a small piece of the torn disc. This is performed through a less than 1-inch incision using muscle-sparing techniques — the same techniques that offer our patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, our board-certified surgeons+ may recommend that the entire torn disc is removed and an artificial disc is inserted in its place to stabilize the spine. This is called a minimally invasive discectomy and stabilization procedure. To find out if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient torn disc surgery, reach out to our dedicated team and ask for a free MRI review.*