A collapsed disc describes a condition where one of the rubbery discs in the spinal column loses its height. As a result, the surrounding vertebrae become compressed and can potentially cause painful symptoms. Since these discs are responsible for cushioning the spine allowing us to bend and flex, loss of disc height can be highly debilitating and disrupt the function of our spinal column.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a collapsed disc or are researching potential causes of neck or back pain, learning more about treatment options can help you as you seek relief. Although spine conditions can seriously and negatively affect your life, lasting relief is possible, and educating yourself is a great first step.
The BEST Health System team is happy to share the following overview of what we think patients should know about collapsed disc treatment. We’re here to help, and if you’d like to learn more please contact us at any time.
1. Collapsed Discs Are Commonly Caused By The Natural Aging Process
A collapsed disc is most commonly associated with an age-related condition called degenerative disc disease. This is a very common condition, affecting well over half the population over the age of 60 according to research. Degenerative disc disease develops essentially because our bodies tend to dry out and lose elasticity as we get older.
For the discs in our spine, which are primarily made of an outer layer of cartilage and a gel-like interior, these effects of the aging process can cause a number of problems. A collapsed disc occurs when the loss of elasticity and increased brittleness causes one or more spinal discs to become thin and lose height.
A collapsed disc can be related to other disc conditions, such as bulging discs and herniated discs, but it is a distinct condition. A bulging disc is when a large portion of the disc wall protrudes out of its normal position in the spinal column and a herniated disc occurs when the disc wall actually ruptures out of a tear in the disc.
It is possible to have a collapsed disc without experiencing symptoms. Like other spine conditions, pain and other problems are most often the results of compression of spinal nerves. In the case of a collapsed disc, this can happen when the decreased disc space narrows nerve pathways which can put pressure on the nerves and cause the following symptoms:
- Localized and radiating pain
- Muscle weakness
2. A Collapsed Disc And Degenerative Disc Disease Are Not Curable But They Are Treatable
Patients typically receive a diagnosis of a collapsed disc from a physician after undergoing an evaluation to determine the source of the above symptoms. Since the condition is age-related, our spinal discs cannot regenerate. This makes the primary goal of treatment symptom management and attempting to slow down the progression as much as possible.
Effective treatments vary, but most patients first work with their doctor to develop a care plan based on a combination of healthy lifestyle choices and conservative treatments.
3. Focusing On A Healthy Lifestyle And Activity Changes Can Help
Our spine is built to withstand enormous amounts of pressure on a daily basis. Not only does it support the upper body and head but it also protects the spinal cord and nerve roots while being flexible enough to bend and twist. While there is no way to reverse the aging process that leads to a collapsed disc, taking steps to relieve pressure on your spinal column can help with both prevention and treatment.
Patients with collapsed disc or other degenerative spine conditions often take the following doctor recommended steps to promote disc health:
- Improve posture to evenly distribute weight on the spine
- Eat a healthy diet with nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory foods
- Get regular exercise to strengthen muscles and improve cardiovascular health
- Quit smoking if necessary
- Start a weight management program, if necessary
So many patients dealing with a collapsed disc are surprised by the positive effects of healthy lifestyle changes. Even for patients who need to eventually undergo surgery, long-term positive outcomes are often dependent on following these guidelines.
4. A Collapsed Disc Diagnosis Does Not Mean Surgery
Upon initial diagnosis of a collapsed disc, physicians will begin with a course of nonsurgical treatments that can complement the above lifestyle recommendations. The most common options are over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, periods of rest, and therapeutic injections.
It can take some time to find the right combination of treatments, but symptom relief that allows for a good quality of life and the ability to perform daily activities is often possible. It is important to take a proactive approach and find treatment professionals who you can collaborate with.
5. Collapsed Disc Surgery Does Not Mean Hospitalization
If weeks or months of conservative treatment are not sufficient in achieving lasting relief for collapsed disc symptoms, it may be time to consult with a spine surgeon. Many patients with spine conditions are hesitant at the prospect of spine surgery due to the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine surgery. Another concern is the risk of hospital-associated infection due to the proximity of patients with infectious diseases.
Fortunately, advancements in technology and technique in spine surgery have allowed for the development of minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery. These procedures require a small incision, often less than one inch, and muscle-sparing techniques. The result is an outpatient experience with less risk of complications and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional back surgery.
You Can Find Relief From Collapsed Disc Symptoms
At BEST Health System our expert multidisciplinary team has extensive experience helping patients with collapsed discs develop personalized treatment plans that are right for their needs and goals. Whether you are exploring conservative care or surgery, we can help at our state-of-the-art facilities. To learn more about treatment for a collapsed disc, contact us today.