Collapsed disc in the back — causes and treatment

A collapsed disc in your back occurs when a spinal disc deteriorates to the point that it begins to flatten and lose height. While this condition is not necessarily painful, it can lead to nerve compression and symptoms of shooting pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness, both locally and in the extremities. If your life is being affected by a collapsed disc in your back, the following information can help you better understand this condition as well as the full range of treatment options available to help you find relief.

What causes discs to collapse?

Collapsed discs are often the result of age-related degeneration, although injury, posture, weight and other factors can contribute. However, the natural aging process causes the discs to dry out and become less able to withstand the pressure on them. Here is how a collapsed disc can typically occur:

  • Body weight and normal movement put pressure on your spinal column, causing the soft inner core of the discs to push outward.
  • Normally, the outer layer of a disc pushes the core back into place. However with time a disc can lose its elasticity and develop small tears.
  • Eventually, the outer layer can no longer push the core back into its original position and prevent it from losing its shape, causing it to lose height.

This process can occur without any warning signs. However, if a disc collapses and presses up against the components of the central and peripheral nervous system, such as the nerve roots or the spinal cord, you might feel pain or discomfort. Similarly, a collapsed disc can allow the vertebrae on either side of the disc to move closer together and impinge on a nerve root located in between the vertebrae. Symptoms can be local or they might radiate throughout the compressed nerve’s path out to the extremities.

How can you treat a collapsed disc?

Depending on the severity of your collapsed disc, you may be able to treat it with conservative therapies. These include pain medications, exercise, stretching, ice or heat therapy, massage and lifestyle changes. However, if these therapies do not provide adequate pain relief, surgery may become an option.

If conservative treatments haven’t done enough to improve the symptoms of the collapsed disc in your back, Laser Spine Institute can help you figure out your next steps. We perform minimally invasive spine surgery on an outpatient basis that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^

Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.