The spinal column is described as having several segments. Each segment has specific nuances, such as how it curves and what it supports. Across all segments of the spine, the natural structure includes bones called vertebrae and gelatinous structures called discs. Spinal discs sit in between the vertebrae, one stacked on top of another. The role of each disc is to cushion force when the body is in motion. Discs also hold up the space in between vertebrae. A collapsed disc is one that has lost a degree of height.
Dissecting the Spinal Disc
If we were to look at a spinal disc up close, we would see multiple chambers. The center chamber of each disc is soft and comprised of a gel-like fluid. Around this chamber is an outer shell that is more fibrous and rigid, intended to protect the core of the disc. During an acute trauma, it is possible that the disc may be injured to the point of collapse. More often, though, discs collapse due to degenerative changes in the outer layer of material.
Collapse does not mean that the disc has completely flattened. In fact, a diagnosis of a collapsed disc usually means that the structure is still relatively intact, free of herniation and not yet misshapen or bulging. What it does mean, however, is that the space through which spinal nerves travel is decreasing. At some point, this decrease will compress on nerves.
Because collapsed discs generally progress from mild to moderate to severe if not treated, a person may have this problem for years without knowing it. Symptoms may only develop when nerve compression has occurred. Signs of nerve compression include:
- Muscle weakness
Symptoms of compressed spinal nerves often occur away from the back itself. Back and neck pain related to a collapsed disc may develop as surrounding muscles tighten in an attempt to stabilize and support the spinal column. However, other symptoms are more likely to be felt in the limbs. For example, tingling in the hand or arm may result from a compressed nerve in the neck (cervical spine.)
Getting Help for Back or Neck Pain
Back and neck pain can progressively get worse without appropriate care. As a neurological surgeon, Dr. Lipani specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of numerous spinal conditions, including collapsed discs. Rest assured, every effort is made to treat back and neck pain without surgical intervention. A consultation in one of our comfortable offices can provide you with the information you need to adequately address the symptoms that are causing you discomfort.