The term “collapsed disc” is a common term used to describe any disc in the spine that has lost its shape due to compression from the surrounding vertebrae. This term may be used to describe a bulging disc, a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. When pressure on the spine causes a disc to lose height, the vertebrae can move closer together, sometimes pinching a spinal nerve or even the spinal cord itself.
A disc in the spine is composed of two main parts: a tough, elastic outer layer and a jellylike fluid inner layer. When the spine is compressed and the disc is pinched between two vertebrae, the inner fluid presses against the outer layer of the disc, causing the elasticity in the outer layer to move the inner fluid back into place and restore the proper height of the disc. Over time, the outer layer may begin to lose elasticity, resulting in the disc expanding without being moved back into place. This causes the disc to flatten and change shape, leaving improper spacing between the surrounding vertebrae. When the vertebrae impact each other, they can pinch a nerve root in between them, which causes extreme pain and other symptoms.
Symptoms of a collapsed disc
A collapsed disc may go unnoticed altogether if it does not cause nerve compression. Symptoms only occur if the damaged disc causes a nerve root in the spinal canal to become compressed, which would result in severe symptoms, such as:
- Local pain at the site of the nerve compression
- Radiating pain to the local extremity
- Numbness and/or tingling in the local extremity
Left untreated, these symptoms can worsen over time and may eventually lead to a decrease in quality of life. If you are suffering from these symptoms, you should consult your physician about treatment options to relieve your pain. Some patients may be recommended to undergo conservative treatment, like physical therapy and pain medication, while others may be recommended for spine surgery.
Surgical treatments for a collapsed disc
A number of surgical treatment options are available for patients who suffer from a collapsed disc. Options for open back surgery may include:
- Laminectomy — The removal of the lamina of one or more vertebrae, with the goal of relieving painful pressure in the spinal canal and/or to gain access to the damaged disc. The lamina of a vertebra is located in the posterior (back) part of the central spinal canal and creates the arch of the vertebra.
- Spinal fusion — A spinal fusion is the permanent union of two or more vertebrae, with the goal of stabilizing the spine and restricting spinal movement to limit the pain that comes from movement. In the surgical process, one or more discs are totally removed. Then, bone chips are placed into the cavity remaining after disc removal. The vertebra is then fixed in position by metal screws linked together with metal rods or plates.
- Open discectomy — The removal of damaged disc tissue through a large incision, followed by spinal fusion or artificial disc replacement.
These open spine surgeries present a number of risks due to the highly invasive nature of the procedures and require lengthy recovery times. For patients seeking a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery, we recommend researching the minimally invasive spine surgery at USA Spine Care.
More effective outpatient options
USA Spine Care offers minimally invasive discectomy procedures to treat a collapsed disc and other forms of degenerative disc disease.
Unlike the highly invasive incision used in a traditional surgery, our minimally invasive incision is only 1 inch in length and avoids altering the muscles near the spine. In contrast, the large incision used in traditional open back surgery cuts through the surrounding muscles and sometimes even requires that the muscles be detached altogether. This invasive technique to reach the spine increases a patient’s risk of complication and excessive blood loss.
During our minimally invasive discectomy, a small portion of the collapsed disc is removed to free the pinched nerve root, while the structure and stability of the spine is maintained. However, if the disc is severely damaged, our surgeons may recommend a minimally invasive stabilization procedure in conjunction with the discectomy. During this procedure, the damaged disc would be fully removed and replaced with an artificial disc and possibly bone grafts. This will help to restore the proper height and stability to the spine, while still releasing pressure on the compressed nerve root.
For more information on the minimally invasive procedures that have earned a 98 patient satisfaction score^, call USA Spine Care today and request a review of your MRI by our team.