This article on Epainassist.com has been reviewed by a medical professional, as well as checked for facts, to assure the readers the best possible accuracy.

We follow a strict editorial policy and we have a zero-tolerance policy regarding any level of plagiarism. Our articles are resourced from reputable online pages. This article may contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.

The feedback link “Was this Article Helpful” on this page can be used to report content that is not accurate, up-to-date or questionable in any manner.

This article does not provide medical advice.


What Causes Loss of Disc Height & How is it Treated?

What Causes Loss of Disc Height?

The loss of disc height is so common in aging adults. However, one may not be aware that they are suffering from loss of disc height because of certain conditions, until they are examined for another health problem during a health checkup.1 As people age the intervertebral discs tend to dry and lose strength. This becomes a problem since the intervertebral discs serve as the spines’ shock absorber.

As people age loss of disc height occurs and they are likely to lose height and become rigid. Loss of disc height can cause the occurrence of nerve impingement, bone and joint inflammation as well as resultant pain. As a matter of fact in severe cases, patients experience constant pain due to loss of disc height which is caused by several diseases. In addition disc degeneration causes the loss of joint space resulting in loss of disc height and this condition has a number of causes.

What Causes Loss of Disc Height?

Loss of Disc Height Caused Due to Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens the bones increasing their probability of breaking and also results in loss of disc height.2 In most cases the bone density slowly decreases after one has reached 35 years of age. Backbones, the bones of the hip, spine, ribs and the forearm are prone to fracture. Decreased bone density, increases the likely hood of the bone to break or loss of disc height as a result of stress or spontaneous chronic pain as well as inability to engage in normal activities. One is likely to suffer from this condition especially if they have very low peak bone mass and bone loss which is greater than usual. Women who have reached menopause are more prone to decreased bone density as a result of lower levels of estrogen. Other causes of osteoporosis include the following:

  • Osteoporosis can be inheritable. Lack of exercise, calcium and vitamin D as well as excessive consumption of alcoholsmoking or an earlier fracture as an adult can cause osteoporosis.
  • Diseases like lack of appetite (anorexia), removal of the ovaries through surgery and the kidney diseases cause weakened bones. Certain medications can also weaken the bones for instance ant seizure medicine, chemotherapy, proton pump inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and steroids.
  • History of rheumatoid and low body weight increases the chances of osteoporosis.

However, this condition can be avoided by taking a balanced diet right from childhood. One can also avoid the medications that are liable of causing this condition. Regular exercise can help a great deal as well as fall prevention. Smoking and consumption of excessive alcohol should also be avoided. In case of a history of a broken bone, medication of the bisphosphonate type will be quite helpful. Unfortunately those suffering from osteoporosis but have no previous broken bones will find bisphosphonate medication less effective or not effective at all.

This condition has no visible symptoms until the bone breaks. However the condition of your bones can be detected through X rays and can be confirmed using tests that measure the bones density. Normal bones have high contents of protein, calcium and collagen strengthening the bone. But once the bones are affected by osteoporosis there are prone to fracture even with minor injuries that could have otherwise not cause bone fracture in normal bones. Osteoporosis is a condition which is common with aging adults.

Loss of Disc Height Caused Due to Vertebral Compression Fracture

Vertebral compression fracture is a collapse of the vertebra which may happen as a result of weak vertebra or trauma and this causes loss of disc height.3 This condition is so common in osteoporosis patients and those with lytic lesions from tumors. It is likely to occur to healthy individuals that have extreme vertical shocks. A compression fracture for instance of the spine usually resemble wedge deformities along with greater loss of disc height anteriorly than posteriorly as well as undamaged pedicles in the antero-posterior view.

As a matter of fact the five largest and strongest of all the vertebrae are known as lumbar vertebrae. The most powerful muscles that enhance stability of the spine attach to the lumbar vertebrae. Severe trauma and compulsive weakening of the bone cause lumbar vertebrae fractures. In addition osteoporosis is also a major cause. Once the fracturing occurs one can no longer walk upright since it is the lumbar spine that provides stability and support if you have to walk upright. But once an injury results to a changed shape of the lumbar vertebrae, it alters the lumbar posture resulting to an increased or decreased lumbar curve. But somehow the body will make some attempts to balance the alteration in the lumbar spine due to the maintenance of an upright posture; eventually the curves of the thoracic and cervical spine are distorted.

Unfortunately one cannot realize that they have a vertebral compression since they develop gradually not until they undergo a health checkup. Otherwise severe vertebral compression will eventually lead to severe back pain and loss of disc height.

Vertebral compression fracture is diagnosed on spinal radiographs. It usually shows a wedge shaped vertebral or a vertebral that has visible loss of height. In other cases CT or MRI scans are performed when tumor is suspected to be the cause of the fracture.

Major Causes of the Lumbar Vertebrae Fractures

These fractures can occur for the following reasons:

Violent trauma in younger patients can result into such fractures as well as car accidents. Accidents cause flexion and flexion distraction injuries. Other causes of loss of disc height are as a result of jumping or falling from heights or even major neurological injuries. Older patients can develop these fractures due to their age even in the absence of trauma or in a situation of minor traumas for instance fall. Another major cause is osteoporosis which is most common in women after they have reached menopause. In addition other conditions such as malignancy, infections as well as renal diseases can contribute to the occurrence of the lumbar vertebrae fractures.

Loss of Disc Height Caused Due to Spondylosis

Spondylosis in other words is the human spinal column degeneration as a result of various causes. Alternatively it is referred as spinal osteoarthritis and this can cause loss of disc height.4 The human spinal column wears as age advances. The process of degeneration in the spinal osteoarthritis mainly upsets vertebral bodies, neural foramina along with the joints of facet. If it is so intense it exerts a lot of pressure on the nerve roots accompanied by sensory disturbances for instance pain, paresthesia as well as the weakening of the muscles in the extremity.

Compression of the nerve root that emerges from the spine might emerge to motor and sensory disturbances such as extreme pain in the shoulder, leg, neck, arm, back or in line with the weakening of the muscles. This kind of compression takes place as of narrowing the space between two adjacent vertebrae. Alternatively set stress on the spine gives rise to a number of complications for instance gait dysfunction, loss of balance, gobal weakness and failure of bladder and bowel control. Due to compression of the nerve and the hindrance of the flow of blood a patient is likely to suffer shock in their hands and legs.

Causes of Spondylosis

In most cases this condition is caused by poor postures and the loss of normal spinal curves. In addition long term abnormal pressure from joint subluxation being placed on the vertebrae and the discs that is between them causes spondylosis. This is because the body forms a new bone that can compensate the distribution of the extra weight as a result of the abnormal stress.

This condition is diagnosed through feeling of electrical shock while bending the neck or even reduced flexibility of the neck. This is the method used during physical examinations but a cervical compression is diagnosed by flexing the patient`s head laterally and exerting descending pressure on it. In case of a shoulder pain or neck on the side to what the head is laterally flexed, that is an indication of cervical spondylosis.

This condition can be managed through leading a modified lifestyle and the use of NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as well as chiropractic care and physical therapy. Physical therapy is super effective in regaining ROM (range of motion) and flexibility and prevents the further loss of disc height. It is quite effective due to its ability to reduce pain. However chiropractic care and physical therapy does not cause any cure. It is just a way of calming the effects of spondylosis. Alternatively one can undergo surgery where the surgeon approaches the spinal column from the front side or rear. Surgery can put the signs and symptoms of spondylosis to a drastic end.

Spondylosis affects a person at any age however the old people are more prone to being affected. This condition is life threatening due to vertebra insufficiency which is usually caused by the obstruction of vertebral artery as it crosses the transverse foramen resulting to rigid spinal joints in cervical spondylosis. This eventually lead to the death of chondrocytes as a result of deprivation of the nutrients. After the death of the chondrocytes the disc grows out and bulges due to incoming osteophytes since it is no longer being maintained.

Degeneration of Discs Causes Loss of Disc Height

Degenerative disc disease causes severe low back pain and neck pain as well as weakness arising from a degenerated disc in the spine. Degenerative disc disease causes loss of disc height and is not an implication of worsening symptoms but the term degeneration analyzes the process of disc degenerating over time. A disc degenerates as a result of less blood supply to the disc. At such a time the contents of the disc are quite disgusting to the body and need to be removed from the body. The process of disc repair after being damaged becomes quite low due to supply of less healing nutrients and oxygen to the disc. As time advances the inflammatory proteins within the disc burns out. After which the disc losses all the water contents thus becoming stiff and loss of disc height happens. In that case it also reduces painful micro-movements and irritating the nerve in the foramen. As a matter of fact scarring around the nerve in the foramen and constant back pain are likely to be caused by recurring micro-trauma and bleeding.

Causes of Disc Degeneration

Degenerative disc disease is caused by various factors, for instance it ranges from a minor injury to the outer ring of the disc, facet joint injury, fractures, as well as rheumatologic causes. Inability of the normal cartilage to function is caused by the effect on the biomechanics and biologic features.

Degeneration is known for causing constant low back pain around the region affected by the disc disease. This condition can be treated through conservative. And the pain improves with time. One can also use treatments for instance physical therapy and oral medication.

Lose of disc height is a foreshadow that one will have a future hip fracture. But movement and practice are perfect weapons to fight height loss.

How is Loss of Disc Height Treated?

How to treat the loss of disc height? The fact that you have a loss of disc height is not an implication that you cannot be whole again. It all depends on your next action.

This is because a number of treatments exist. Surgery can help in treating loss of disc height. This should be your last option that is only if you have tried all other forms of treatment for loss of disc height without success. This is the process through which the disc is removed and in some cases the surgeon may opt to replace it with an artificial disk. In addition the adjacent vertebrae are joined by use screws and rods. Surgery eliminates pain completely but you should not consider surgery having not tried other treatments for loss of disc height. This is because of the risks one has to undergo while going through surgery. In fact you are liable of losing your life.
Other treatments to reduce the pain caused by loss of disc height and rejuvenate the spine include:

  • Massage therapy can help in treating the pain caused by loss of disc height. Many people may have overlooked the importance of massage but it is excellent in relaxing the muscles. It also a way of distributing the pressure evenly in the affected area. Once you continue to undergo massage therapy for the spine, the blood circulation increases and you might be able to regain the strength of spine.
  • Physiotherapy can aid in treating loss of disc height. This is the activity of stretching and strengthening the muscles that are within the spine. In return the spine will reduce the pain.
  • Medications can treat the pain caused by loss of disc height. To control the pain you can use the pain relieving medicine and they will help you forget your pain for some time. Though this, methodology won`t heal you but at least you will get some relief.
  • Weight control will relieve the pain caused by loss of disc height. Excess weight will end up exerting more pressure on the affected disc. But you can prevent this from happening by exercising in order to control your weight gain. Alternatively you can avoid eating food that will lead you to obesity.
  • Regular chiropractic visits will help in alleviating the pain caused by loss of disc height. Visiting a chiropractor may help you a big deal since they will align your back using natural methods. This will help in the relaxation of your muscles. In addition they will also fix your posture.

But as far as you have a loss of disc height, always avoid anything that causes strain to your spine.

Ways of Preventing Loss of Disc Height

Right Type of Diet Will Help in Preventing Loss of Disc Height

Consuming the right diet will help in preventing the loss of disc height. Ensuring that you consume all the nutrients that are meant to strengthen bone function as well as boost bone formation. Eating the right food is the remedy to height loss. The nutrients that enhance the formation and the strengthening of the bone include the following:

  • Calcium will contribute in preventing loss of disc height. This is one of the major minerals that lead to bone formation. Our skeletons need to be maintained and calcium is super excellent in maintaining a healthy skeleton. In addition one can supplement with the organic plant based type of calcium. In that case your bones will be strong and cannot fracture easily. The foods that are usually rich in calcium include, broccoli, mustard, kale, spinach among others.
  • Vitamin D helps in preventing loss of disc height. This is a very crucial mineral. And we usually get it from the sun. Vitamin D major role is to strengthen the bones. In that case you can spare some thirty minutes of your day especially in the morning and ensure that you expose yourself to the sunshine.
  • Vitamin C indirectly helps in preventing loss of disc height. Despite the fact that vitamin C is basically ascorbic acid it does not create an acidic condition in the body. It is usually responsible for the strengthening and building the collagen matrix. As a matter of fact the collagen matrix in question binds the bones together enhancing their strength. In cases where one has vitamin C and D deficiency, one is liable of having bone loss. Vitamin C is both an antioxidant as well as a vitamin since it helps prevent oxidative destruction to the bones. You can always get vitamin C from foods like citrus fruits, straw berries, raspberries, pineapple, Broccoli among others.

Always Maintain an Upright Posture to Prevent Loss of Disc Height

Good posture dictates and strengthens the muscles around the spine as well as other parts of the body and prevents loss of disc height. Once you start practicing on adapting an upright posture you cannot get exhausted easily. The muscles that hold you up become very flexible and strong.

Learn to Exercise the Bones and the Muscles to Prevent Loss of Disc Height

The back, head, shoulders are usually supported by muscles. Exercising these muscles will make them strong thus giving super support to you head, back and shoulders. In that case you will always have an upright posture. Alternatively you can go for a massage. This relaxes the muscles enabling them to be flexible and also prevent loss of disc height. Mind you any form of healthy exercise will increase your bone strength, density as well as flexibility. In line with that your muscles will adapt a superb functionality. The truth is that building ones’ bones is improving your posture.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 24, 2019

Recent Posts

Related Posts