The spine is central to human life and one of the most important structures of the body. Made up of precisely-stacked vertebral bones, the spine or “backbone” houses the spinal cord, supports the weight of the upper body and facilitates our movement. Intervertebral discs formed out of cartilage and fibers can be found between most of the spine’s vertebrae. These discs absorb shock and strain while providing necessary cushioning for the spine.
Intervertebral discs have a hard outer casing and a gel-like, liquefied nucleus. The external and internal parts of a disc are mostly comprised of the same materials (water, collagen and proteoglycans), though the amount of fluid is higher in the soft part of the disc than the protective exterior.
These discs are highly susceptible to damage, especially as an individual ages and natural wear and tear placed on the body throughout the years becomes more pronounced. The older a man or a woman gets, the less hydrated their intervertebral discs are. Disc-related difficulties are some of the most common underlying causes of back pain and related discomforts.
A “collapsed disc” is an intervertebral disc that has shrunk. Its height or mass has been greatly reduced, often due to dehydration, and one or more regions of the disc may become significantly decayed. Usually a shrunken disc does not become noticeable until it begins to affect other areas of the spine. Collapsed discs may aggravate the spinal cord or nearby nerves and result in pain and discomfort.
Frequently, collapsed discs occur in the neck (known as the cervical area) or lower (referred to as the lumbar area) regions of the spine. As we go about our daily activities, these areas of the backbone bear a considerable amount of strain while working to support the body’s weight and each of our movements.
Usually discs shrink because their fibrous outer wall has deteriorated drastically. The majority of collapsed discs are caused by the body’s natural aging processes. As we age, our vertebrae and intervertebral discs naturally begin to degenerate. Several determinants besides age, however, can cause or exacerbate a collapsed disc. These factors include:
If you believe you are at risk for a collapsed disc or other spine-related complications, speak with your doctor about how to maintain life-long spine health. By participating in moderate exercise and making other lifestyle changes, you may be able to lower your chances of sustaining a collapsed disc now or later in life.
Most patients do not suspect they have a collapsed disc until the disc begins to compress nearby tissues and disrupt the spinal column’s stability. Some of the symptoms associated with a collapsed disc are:
A collapsed disc may lead to herniated or bulging disc and pinched nerve.
Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach
At Microspine, Dr. T and his team regularly helps patients diagnose and address collapsed discs and related spinal conditions. By providing personalized, compassionate care, we strive to ensure that patients return healed to their everyday lives and do not develop secondary conditions as a result of untimely treatment.
During your initial visit, one of our Board-certified surgeons will carefully analyze your physical state and medical history. If your symptoms seem to suggest a collapsed disc, an X-ray, MRI or CT scan may be requested to attain a definitive diagnosis. Based upon this information, we can recommend specific treatments or procedures to best address your collapsed disc(s).
Whenever possible, we generally encourage a combination of conservative treatments for a collapsed disc before considering surgical options. The following non-invasive methods of care can often be extremely effective when combating the symptoms of a collapsed disc:
If conservative methods of treatment do not provide satisfactory relief, surgical intervention may be necessary to maintain or improve your quality of life. Our spine surgeon, Dr. T, specializes in minimally invasive and Endoscopic procedures. These advanced techniques generally yield: