What is an Annular Tear?
An annular tear describes a tear in the tough outer layer of a disc in the spine. This tear can occur with the natural breakdown of the spine over time or from a sudden injury or trauma.
Many people develop an annular tear at some point in life. However, it is usually small and does not change the integrity of the disc in the spine. Since the disc does not change or move, the nearby nerves in the spinal canal are not touched, leaving the condition unnoticed. People only recognize that a spine condition has developed when it presses against a nerve and results in chronic pain and annular tear symptoms.
An annular tear is often caused by two things: degeneration of the spine and injury. While the natural aging process of the spine is most often the cause of an annular tear, sometimes a sudden injury can cause the outer layer of the disc to tear and cause pain.
Understanding the causes of this condition can help you recognize the symptoms and possibly prevent some of the associated risk factors. The causes include:
- Aging: Due to the continued stress and pressure placed on discs in the spine, they break down over time. By age 30, a person’s discs have begun to degenerate. This makes the discs susceptible to an annular tear. Additionally, years of weight gain can add unnecessary pressure to the discs and cause the elasticity in the outer layer of the discs to eventually stretch out and tear.
- Repetitive motion: Repetitive movements are a common cause of an annular tear. This can be an issue for different professionals such as construction workers, restaurant workers, or even people who sit at a desk all day.
- Traumatic injury: Injuries to neck and back can be sustained while participating in high-impact sports. Automobile accidents can also cause a traumatic injury that leads to a tear. Excessive force, no matter the cause, can lead to injury of the tough outer layer of the disc.
An annular tear comes with many symptoms, including:
- Pain at the site of the damaged disc
- Pain, weakness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Burning sensation
- Numbness in arms or legs
Annular Tear Treatment
Annular tears often heal on their own, however, it sometimes takes conservative methods. This can include a variety of options including physical therapy and massage treatment. If conservative methods are ineffective after months of effort, surgery can be an option.
At BEST Health System, our surgeons focus on providing patients with the most effective, least invasive treatment option. We accomplish this by performing minimally invasive operations that use a less than one inch incision. This allows for faster recovery times and less risk of infection, all on an outpatient basis.
To learn more about our services, contact us today.