Do You Have a Collapsed Disc?

woman with collapsed disc

There are a number of different factors that play a role in whether or not a patient develops a degenerated disc. Though degenerative disc disease is one of the most common reasons that collapsed discs form, it is not the sole reason for the condition. For instance, a patient with a collapsed disc in the back or the neck may experience this condition in conjunction with a nearby bulging or herniated disc. In all three of these instances, something compromises the disc’s integrity and as a result, the disc collapses.

If a patient believes that they have a collapsed disc in the back or neck, then their orthopedic doctor may order an MRI and review treatment options. MRIs are ideal here, as they allow for the doctor to speculate about which events led to the collapsed disc.

Generally speaking, surgery is not necessary to treat degenerated discs. In most cases where the condition is caught at an early enough stage, physical therapy and medication may be all that you need to alleviate symptoms. In other cases, however, the pain may be chronic and long-lasting. For these instances, it may be necessary to undergo surgery in order to restore the patient to their previous quality of life. These treatments are naturally more invasive than conservative methods. Therefore, medical consultation should always be sought before making decisions about this route.

Causes of a Collapsed Disc

There are multiple causes that can contribute to the development of a collapsed disc. Here are the three most common:

  • Aging: As with all degenerative conditions, the natural aging process is the most common cause for the manifestation of a collapsed disc. With time, discs lose their water content, which makes them less flexible and more susceptible to harm. Discs also lose their elasticity, which reduces their ability to act as shock absorbers. Eventually, everyday activities end up leading to tears and bulging, as well as diminished height and collapsed discs.
  • Weight: Weight problems are another common cause for collapsed discs. This is only natural, as our spine helps support the weight of our upper body. Heavier people have an increased axial load on their spines. This makes the structures of the spine more likely to suffer damage with time. And, in turn, this increases the likelihood of developing a collapsed disc. Additionally, the disc may lose its normal shape, which may lead to a slew of different symptoms.
  • Sports: While aging may be the most common reason for collapsed discs to occur, high-impact sports may also expose the structures of the spine to damaging forces that could potentially lead to the condition. Similar to being overweight, certain sports may also naturally increase the axial load on the spine. This is simply the cause and effect of high-impact sports and repetitive motions such as swinging and twisting.

What are the Symptoms of a Collapsed Disc?

Usually, a degenerated disc will not manifest severe symptoms. That being said, there are still scenarios in which symptoms may occur. Normally, this is due to the fact the disc between each vertebra becomes so narrow that the vertebrae then compress nearby nerves.

In such cases, patients may experience:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Sensations of numbness or tingling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Pain
  • Burning sensations

Given the nature of how these symptoms manifest, they should always be taken seriously when they arise. You may also be dealing with other conditions simultaneously that cause these ailments, such as a pinched nerve. If you notice any of these symptoms, then you should contact your doctor and get on a treatment plan that suits your specific needs. Your doctor will be able to give you options based on the severity of your case.

Treatments for a Collapsed Disc

As with any medical treatment, your doctor will always exhaust conservative options before considering surgical methods. Most of the time, conservative treatment is all you need to treat the symptoms of a collapsed disc. That being said, there are certainly cases where surgical treatment is the way to go. Consult your doctor for more information.

Conservative Collapsed Disc Treatments

The following are examples of conservative treatments that your doctor may use to treat your condition:

  • Medications: Your doctor will likely prescribe NSAIDs and analgesics to reduce pain, burning sensations, numbness, and muscle weakness. The NSAIDs will help alleviate inflammation and more excruciating symptoms. If these do not prove to be helpful, your doctor may prescribe narcotics such as codeine or oxycodone-acetaminophen.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help to relieve localized pain. In addition to this, PT also aims to strengthen core muscles and restore range of motion and flexibility to the spine. Moreover, PT usually involves a tailored series of stretches and exercises that your therapist will structure to match your needs. Be sure to receive detailed descriptions of all of these exercises and stretches so that you can perform them confidently and comfortably at home.
  • Heat-Ice Therapy: Usually, a combination of heat and ice therapies will be more effective in relieving pain that is a result of herniated discs. Of course, this somewhat depends on the individual case. In some instances, this treatment may make symptoms worse.
  • Epidural Steroid Injections: If you have severe, debilitating pain from your condition, then this option may be right for you. Your doctor will be able to determine if you would benefit from an epidural steroid injection. There may be factors that affect whether or not this treatment will work for you. Consult with your doctor for more information.

Surgical Collapsed Disc Treatments

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of surgery: minimally invasive and open or traditional approaches. For collapsed discs, usually, your surgeon will perform the latter. These surgeries involve large incisions in the neck or back that may reach up to eight inches in length. Here are some procedures that your doctor may recommend:

  • Laminectomy: This procedure revolves around the removal of the lamina as well as one or more vertebrae. The goal is to relieve pressure on the spinal canal and/or to provide the surgeon with access to the affected area.
  • Spinal Fusion: In order to stabilize the spine and restrict unnecessary movement, your surgeon may perform this procedure via fusing two or more vertebrae together. This helps reduce the pain that arises from movement. During the procedure, your doctor will remove one or more discs completely and replace them with a prosthetic and/or bone graft. Then, your doctor fixes these structures into position through the use of implements such as metal screws and rods.
  • Open Discectomy: This procedure will involve the removal of damaged disc and tissues. Once your surgeon has performed this step, he or she will conclude the procedure with either a spinal fusion or disc replacement.

Contact Us

Do you have a degenerative disc condition that has led to a collapsed disc? If so, contact New York City Spine at (855) 210-0899. Our team is composed of leading spine experts who take pride in the exceptional care that they provide to every patient. Our team will work tirelessly to ensure that you are put on an individualized care plan that suits your specific needs. Contact us today!

At New York City Spine Surgery, our standard for excellent care means treating you as a whole person, and not just another spine disorder on a chart.

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