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What does it mean to have a collapsed disc?

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to shrink in stature as they age? The effect is not an illusion. It is very real and often a result of spinal disc collapse.

A collapsed disc is a spinal disc that has flattened out due to a loss of water content. As age-related degenerative changes take place in the spine, the discs naturally become drier over time. This can be problematic because the discs are designed to serve as shock-absorbing cushions for the highly mobile vertebrae. As a disc loses height, the surrounding vertebrae move closer together. In addition to a loss of overall body height, this can lead to bone-on-bone contact and the development of bone spurs, which can potentially compress sensitive nerves in the spinal column.

Does a collapsed disc require treatment?

If a collapsed disc causes nerve compression, a number of symptoms can develop, including:

  • Neck or back pain
  • Muscle weakness in an arm or leg
  • Numbness and tingling sensations that radiate from the spine through an arm or leg
  • Muscle spasms

Collapsed disc symptoms can often be effectively managed with conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and pain medications. However, while nonsurgical remedies can be helpful for symptom relief, it’s important to understand that nothing short of surgery can address the root cause of the discomfort — the collapsed disc itself. By performing a surgical procedure such as discectomy, a surgeon can repair or replace a damaged disc, which may provide a long-term solution.

Surgery for a collapsed disc

If you and your surgeon conclude that surgery is your next step, you’ll need to decide on a specific procedure, which you should do only after reviewing the potential benefits, risks and outcomes of all appropriate options. You’ll also want to find out how soon you can reasonably expect to see an improvement in your symptoms.

As you learn about collapsed disc surgery, you might understandably begin to feel overwhelmed by all of the information out there. If you’d like additional help understanding your options, feel free to contact USA Spine Care. We can provide a free MRI review* along with any answers you need about your condition and its surgical treatment options. Our surgeons perform minimally invasive outpatient surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ We can help you find out if you’re a candidate.

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