Although it may sound like a traumatic injury, a collapsed disc simply refers to a spinal disc that has lost height and thickness. This is usually as a result of the natural breakdown of the disc due to age, which is often called degenerative disc disease. Over time the discs dry out and lose elasticity, causing them to shrink and lose height.
Disc degeneration happens to everyone and it’s possible to have a collapsed disc without experiencing any symptoms. Pain and other issues can occur because the loss of disc height can cause the vertebrae to come into closer contact, narrowing the nerve pathways in the spinal column. The increased friction between the vertebrae can also lead to bone spurs that cause further narrowing and nerve compression. Collapsed discs are often diagnosed after a patient experiencing nerve-related symptoms seeks out a doctor for treatment.
Conservative collapsed disc treatment
Collapsed disc treatment almost always begins nonsurgically, with therapies designed to improve range of motion, take pressure off of the disc and surrounding vertebrae and manage pain as it arises. Here are three of the most common treatments doctors will recommend for collapsed discs and other degenerative disc conditions:
- Exercise and physical therapy. Staying active is critical to spine health and treating this condition. Regular exercises and physical therapy sessions with a qualified practitioner can help strengthen supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments while improving spinal flexibility and posture.
- Hot and cold compression therapy. This is a widely recommended treatment that can be performed from the comfort of your own home. Use of heat, such as a heating pad, relaxes muscles and improves circulation. While a cold compress, like an ice pack, helps relieve pain and inflammation related to a collapsed disc.
- Medications. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen are proven to help patients with disc-related nerve compression deal with painful episodes and accomplish daily activities. In more severe cases, doctors may suggest an epidural steroid injection directly into the area surrounding the collapsed disc.
Be patient as you work to develop a personalized treatment plan, often it can take some trial and error to find the right combination of collapsed disc treatment options for you.
When to consider collapsed disc surgery
A physician will usually wait until conservative methods have been fully exhausted over a period of weeks or months before surgery becomes a serious consideration. If you are being recommended for surgery but have concerns about the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open neck or back surgery, contact USA Spine Care. Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering our patients less risk of complication and no lengthy recovery.^
Ask for your free MRI review* to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.
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