“Collapsed disc” is an informal term that is sometimes used to refer to a spinal disc that has lost some of its original height and water content. This can make the disc weak, brittle, inflexible and susceptible to tearing. With less water to support it, a disc can also shrink or collapse. Because the spinal discs serve an important role as cushions that separate and support the hard-working vertebrae through a wide range of motion, it is important for them to maintain their proper shape and suppleness in order to function effectively.
Cause and effect
A collapsed disc can develop as a result of repetitive wear and tear, a sudden blow to the spine or degenerative spine disease, which is often associated with the natural aging process. Therefore, degenerative spine disease is one possible cause of a collapsed disc.
Degenerative spine disease can also cause or hasten the onset of several other spinal conditions. In addition to a collapsed disc, these include:
- Spinal stenosis — a narrowing effect that takes place within the spinal canal and can lead to nerve root or spinal cord compression
- Spinal osteoarthritis — a breakdown of the protective cartilage that lines the spinal facet joints
- Spinal bone spurs — excess bony deposits produced naturally by the body to strengthen weakened vertebrae
- Spondylolisthesis — a vertebral body that has slipped forward over the vertebra located directly beneath it
Nonsurgical treatment can be very effective for managing the symptoms of nerve compression caused by a collapsed disc. For instance, many people benefit from using physical therapy, applying hot and cold compresses and taking medications as needed for pain relief. Physician-approved exercise can also increase blood circulation to promote the healing of a damaged disc.
If conservative treatments like these do not produce sufficient results after several weeks or months, it may be time to explore surgery. At USA Spine Care, we offer minimally invasive outpatient procedures that are safer and effective alternatives to traditional open spine surgery.^ To learn more and find out if you’re a candidate, call for your initial consultation at our facility.
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