What is an Annular Tear?
An annular tear occurs when the outer layer of a spinal disc, called the annulus fibrosus, develops a rip or tear. Also called a fissure, annular tears are typically related to the natural aging process of the spine and develop due to loss of water and protein content that makes the discs less elastic. Annular tears often set in the lumbar spine due to the amount of weight this area supports and flexibility.
This condition is not always painful and may only cause minor irritation or no symptoms. If the condition is discovered incidentally, such as through an MRI for another condition, and is not causing any symptoms, then annular tear treatment is generally not recommended. In cases where a lumbar tear is causing pain and inflammation, doctors will typically begin treatment conservatively.
Annular Tear Treatments
The best annular tear treatment options vary on a patient-to-patient basis. They are based on factors like personal medical history, the severity of symptoms, and the degree to which movement is being affected. Although treatment plans will vary, here are four standard options patients with an annular tear in the lumbar spine may expect to encounter:
- Rest. An annular tear can often improve on its own, so sufficient rest to take pressure off the spine and allow natural healing can be beneficial. However, it is also important not to become overly passive, as this can adversely affect the spine.
- Medication. Over-the-counter medications, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are commonly recommended by doctors to help manage disc pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy. Low-impact physical therapy can help to strengthen core muscles and improve spinal flexibility. This takes the pressure off the discs and potentially relieves pain.
- Lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also recommend taking any necessary steps to improve overall health. This may include eating a more nutritious diet, regular exercise, improving posture, quitting smoking, and moderating alcohol consumption.
When to Consider Surgery
Are you considering annular tear surgery? If you have experimented with these conservative treatment options and not found relief, you may be a candidate for surgery. At BEST Health System, our board-certified surgeons are dedicated to helping patients find the most effective, least invasive surgical option.
At BEST Health System, we utilize minimally invasive surgery techniques to ensure our patients enjoy a fast recovery and minimal scarring. Are you interested in learning more about treatment at BEST? Contact us today.