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Minnesota's Leading Spine Center

Minnesota's Leading Spine Center


Minnesota's Leading Spine Center

Collapsed Disc

What is a Collapsed Disc?

A collapsed disc occurs when the discs of the spine lose their normal height over time due to disc degeneration or reduction of the fibrous outer wall. A collapsed disc can also happen because of the natural aging process, spinal arthritis or due to an injury. Spinal arthritis, or osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease are the most common causes of a collapsed disc.

To a lesser degree, the affected patient may be suffering from a collapsed disc resulting from a bulging or herniated disc.

The severity of a collapsed disc varies. In fact, some people may not experience any initial symptoms from a collapsed disc. But if the disc begins interfering with the surrounding nerves in the spine, serious complications can result.

Collapsed Disc Causes

A collapsed disc can be caused by a number of degenerative spinal conditions or an injury. Below are the most common causes of a collapsed disc.

  • Spinal Arthritis: Also known as Osteoarthritis, this degenerative condition of the spine is due to aging. Researchers are also learning that some may have a genetic predisposition to spinal arthritis. As the joint structure and function is worn away, the spinal discs may collapse causing the facet joints to rub together.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease: As spinal discs become weaker and lose water content, this can cause the disc to collapse and lose height, greatly decreasing the space between vertebrae.
  • Herniated Disc: When the interior portion of the spinal disc ruptures the outer portion of the disc, this can cause nerve pain and cause the disc to fully collapse.
  • Sudden Injury: A serious injury caused by an auto accident, sports injury, or other type of serious injury can immediate cause a disc to collapse where there were previously no symptoms.


Collapsed Disc Symptoms

A collapsed disc generally doesn’t show extreme symptoms and is rarely an isolated condition, unless caused by injury. Above is a list of the causes of a collapsed disc that if diagnosed early enough can prevent this condition.

If you are suffering from degenerative disc disease, spinal arthritis, a herniated disc, and also feel the following symptoms, speak with an Orthopedic surgeon to check if a collapsed disc may be indicated.

  • Pain in the back that may radiate to the legs
  • Tingling or numbness in the back or extremities
  • Mobility or functional issues in the back
  • Bladder or bowel control issues

How is a Collapsed Disc Diagnosed?

MRI Imagery

In most cases, to properly diagnose a collapsed disc, you will be subject to an MRI. An MRI creates imagery that allows medical professionals to view specific anatomy of the body. When it comes to the spine, discs and other spinal parts can be easily viewed allowing the doctor to formulate a more accurate diagnosis than using X-Ray imagery.


In the case of degenerative disc disease (DDD), your doctor may suggest a discogram. When you’re suffering from degenerative disc disease, you may not recognize the symptoms of your collapsed disc as being separate from DDD. A discogram is an invasive procedure where a dye is injected into the affected disc and an X-ray is taken. This allows the doctor to better view the condition of the spinal disc and determine if it is collapsed.

Conservative Collapsed Disc Treatment Options

Conservative, non-surgical, collapsed disc treatments are designed to provide temporary relief. The symptoms of a collapsed disc (pain, and mobility issues) can be mitigated with conservative techniques like pain medication, physical therapy, and the like. However, these approaches only reduce symptoms without addressing the root of the issue – the collapsed disc itself.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy for a collapsed disc can alleviate pain, increase flexibility, and improve muscle strength around the affected area.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or Opioids

Depending on the severity of pain you’re feeling, and to extend the period before surgery is needed, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers.

Many NSAIDs, like Aspirin, Ibuprofin, and Naproxen, can be purchased over-the-counter. Before assuming that NSAIDs are going to be an effective choice for you, consult with a physician to ensure they do not counteract with any current medications you’re taking, especially blood thinners.

In more severe cases, your prescribing physician may suggest an opioid medication. If prescribed an opioid for your collapsed disc, ensure your doctor is made aware of any other medications, medical conditions, and family history.

Collapsed Disc Surgery

Is Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery an Option?

Collapsed discs in the spine generally require surgical treatment. Although conservative treatments help alleviate pain, the results are temporary. Minimally invasive spine surgery allows a surgeon to repair or replace the collapsed disc, which resolves symptoms in the long-term.

minimally invasive spinal surgery at Inspired Spine

Fortunately, even patients with significant co-morbidities can usually undergo minimally invasive spinal surgery at Inspired Spine. These revolutionary, minimally invasive spinal surgeries are proven to reduce blood loss, decrease recovery time, and return you to a life without chronic back pain.

Our Conservative Treatment Path

Schedule a time to meet with an Inspired Spine surgeon to speak about your specific symptoms.

We are dedicated to a conservative back pain treatment path, utilizing spinal surgery only when absolutely necessary. Less than 10% of Inspired Spine patients are prescribed surgery for their spinal condition.