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Collapsed disc

What is a collapsed disc?

A collapsed disc is a spinal disc that has lost its normal height due to degenerative changes in its outer layer (annulus fibrosus). Collapsed discs most commonly occur in the upper (cervical) and lower (lumbar) regions of the spine because the vertebrae in these areas commonly endure high-stress twisting and bending motions that can lead to disc degeneration.

How is a collapsed disc diagnosed?

As with all spine conditions, a collapsed disc diagnosis can only be reached by consulting with a physician. He or she will begin by listening to you describe your symptoms and by conducting a physical examination. Then, an X-ray, MRI or CT scan may be ordered to get a clearer look at your spine and confirm your collapsed disc diagnosis.

What causes a collapsed disc?

A collapsed disc is most often an effect of the natural aging process, as years of wear can cause spinal discs to weaken over time, making them more prone to becoming damaged. Additionally, there are several risk factors that can cause the discs to degenerate at a faster rate than normal. These factors can include obesity, poor posture, participation in high-impact sports and excessive alcohol and tobacco use.

What are the symptoms of a collapsed disc?

When a spinal disc collapses, it causes a reduction of space between the two vertebrae that the disc lies between. This can cause the nerve roots that reside in the space to become compressed by the surrounding bone. If nerve root compression occurs, pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness can materialize in the area of the body that the compressed nerve affects. Additionally, localized pain may occur if the collapsed disc causes inflammation in the disc wall.

How is a collapsed disc treated?

Treatment for a collapsed disc will usually begin with a regimen of conservative therapy. Some commonly used methods of treatment include pain medication, physical therapy, hot/cold compresses and low-impact exercise. Some patients choose to explore alternative methods of treatment on their own, and success has been widely reported through the use of massage therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation.

Do I need collapsed disc surgery?

Many patients with a collapsed disc will only need nonsurgical treatment to effectively manage their pain and other symptoms. For some patients, however, symptoms may still persist after several months of treatment. In this case, surgery will be recommended.

At Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Florida, our highly skilled surgeons perform minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. These procedures are performed through a less than 1-inch incision and utilize muscle-sparing techniques, allowing our patients to benefit from a reduced risk of complication and a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.

If you would like to learn more about the advantages of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, or if you would like a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you may be a candidate, contact Laser Spine Institute today.