The term “collapsed disc” is commonly used as a colloquialism to describe a condition that affects the intervertebral discs. These discs provide cushioning to the vertebrae and also separate the vertebrae, allowing spinal nerves to pass between them. . Various spinal conditions, including herniated discs, bulging discs, or degenerative disc disease, cause a disc to lose height and/or shape. When this occurs, the space between the vertebrae decreases and spinal nerves may become impinged.
What is a collapsed disc?
A disc can lose height, or “collapse,” due to any of the below spinal conditions:
- Herniated disc – This condition occurs when the jelly-like interior of an intervertebral disc extrudes through a tear in the disc’s tough exterior. The tear can be caused by degenerative changes that occur as a person ages, or as a result of traumatic injury.
- Bulging disc – The causes of a bulging disc are similar to those of a herniated disc. With this condition, however, the interior of the disc remains contained within the outer fibers, but the disc becomes flattened and extends beyond its usual perimeters.
- Degenerative disc disease – As a person ages, their intervertebral discs can become weaker and lose water content. When this happens, the disc tends to lose height and the intervertebral space can become smaller.
While these spinal conditions can remain completely asymptomatic for some patients, others are highly symptomatic. . Symptoms are typically experienced when the intervertebral space becomes so diminished that nearby spinal nerve roots are compressed.
When a spinal nerve is compressed, patients can experience pain (either dull or sharp), numbness, tingling, muscle spasms, or muscle weakness
The two most common causes of a collapsed disc include age and traumatic injury. As a person ages, the intervertebral discs can lose water content and become weaker. These changes can cause a number of degenerative spine conditions, including a collapsed disc. Sudden, forceful impact can also damage the tough exterior of a disc and result in a bulging disc or herniated disc.
Most physicians begin treatment for a collapsed disc with conservative therapies such as pain medication and hot/cold therapy. If a patient receives little relief from these non-invasive forms of treatment, surgery may be recommended. The endoscopic, outpatient procedures performed by Laser Spine Institute present fewer risks than traditional open back surgery and are a viable alternative for most patients. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information and to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.