What causes a torn disc?

A torn disc in the spine can be very painful and interfere with your ability to lead a normal life, taking you away from friends and family, work or just being able to relax at the end of the day. There are many different contributors to this condition — including posture, injury and weight — but the most significant is the natural aging process.

While aging isn’t reversible, treatment that can help you return to the people and activities you’ve been missing and prevent future pain and discomfort is possible. As you work with your doctor to get the help you deserve, learning about the causes, risk factors and the full range of therapeutic options for a torn disc can help you in your search for lasting relief.


Torn discs most commonly occur as a result of the natural aging process. As a person grows older, the tough exterior of a disc can become less flexible while the soft interior dries out. These degenerative changes often prevent the disc from providing as much support and cushioning to the vertebrae as it did when it was younger and healthier. Everyday activities, such as walking, sitting and standing, can apply continued stress to the disc, which may cause an older, less healthy disc to tear. Torn discs can also occur in younger patients as a result of sudden, harsh impact, such as that from a car accident or sports injury.

Risk factors

Though this spinal condition is often unpreventable, avoiding the following risk factors can decrease a patient’s likelihood of developing a torn disc:

  • Smoking
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Heavy lifting, especially using improper techniques
  • High-impact sports and exercise

Patients who are concerned about developing a torn disc should discuss other preventable measures with their primary care physician or neck and back specialist.

If surgery becomes an option

If you have been diagnosed with a torn disc, most doctors will recommend an initial course of conservative treatment options like hot and cold compression therapy, over-the-counter medications and physical therapy exercises. Surgery can become an option if weeks and months of these and other treatments don’t bring the relief needed for the activities of daily life. Before consenting to a traditional open spine procedure and the large incision and hospitalization required, you may want to consider receiving outpatient treatment from the board-certified+ surgeons at Laser Spine Institute.

Contact us to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery and to receive a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.