Five Ways to Manage Pain Caused by an Annular Tear | BEST

An annular tear is a degenerative spinal condition that can produce painful symptoms. Most often the result of the natural spinal degeneration that occurs as we grow older, this condition is characterized by a rip in the tough outside wall of a spinal disc that has become brittle or lost its elasticity. If pressure on the disc’s inner nucleus causes it to push through the tear and enter the spinal canal, the result is a herniated disc. 

An annular tear in the neck can cause pain around the damaged disc. The pain can become chronic or intensify when the neck is bent or twisted. Additionally, if there is nerve involvement, symptoms may be felt in other areas of the body, such as the arms, hands, legs, or feet. For instance, a cervical annular tear may cause:

  • Numbness 
  • Tingling sensations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms

Managing Annular Tear Symptoms

Although the symptoms associated with annular tears can be quite painful, there are a variety of treatment methods available that can provide relief to patients experiencing chronic pain. Luckily, annular tear symptoms often respond well to conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medications, and epidural steroid injections. For severe pain that lingers beyond several weeks or months, there may be surgical treatment options to consider as well. 

When portions of the damaged disc come in contact with a nearby nerve root of the spinal cord, symptoms such as pain, numbness, muscle weakness, tingling, and back spasms can develop. However, these symptoms are manageable through a wellness plan carefully curated through different specialists. 

Since it is often overwhelming to consider the different treatment options available, we will provide a breakdown of five of the most common treatment methods.

  1. Epidural Injections

Epidural steroid injections are often recommended to patients as a component of a comprehensive treatment plan, usually accompanied by physical therapy and occupational therapy. Epidural injections provide effective, but temporary, relief from the major kinds of back pain. 

Epidural injections work by inhibiting the body’s inflammatory response to pain. For treating back pain, these injections are used to deliver medications directly into the epidural space in the spine. Typically, these medications include a combination of:

  • Fast-acting local anesthetic to temporarily numb the injection site
  • Saline to dilute the local anesthetic or serve as a “flushing” agent to dilute the immunologic agents that promote inflammation
  • Cortisone to reduce inflammation

Since epidural injections are to be performed by a doctor, a patient will need a valid diagnosis and a doctor recommendation. If you are interested in learning more about epidural injections and seeing if you could be a candidate for them as a treatment method of an annular tear, contact BEST today. 

  1. Medical Massage

Medical massage therapy typically refers to massage that is used to treat a condition or injury diagnosed by a physician. A medical massage therapist usually receives specialized training and certification in therapeutic massage. This form of massage is built on a functional understanding of the body and how certain disorders can affect the way the body works. 

Much like epidural injections, massage is a great way to relieve temporary pain. However, this is not necessarily a sure fire way to prevent pain from coming back. While medical massage is a great way to supplement other treatment methods since it is so effective in relieving chronic pain, it should not be used independently. 

  1. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Over the counter and prescription medicines can help decrease inflammation in the spine, which, in turn, could reduce the nerve compression and lessen your pain. This is often the best way to begin treatment, as it is easily accessible through any drugstore. If you try this as your initial treatment method and find it to be ineffective, there is a chance you might need other supplementary treatments, such as physical therapy. 

Throughout annular tear treatment, many patients continue to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to manage their chronic pain. However, you should consult with your doctor if you are undergoing treatment and still require taking this medication frequently, as it may mean you require a different approach to your annular tear. 

  1. Chiropractic Care

A chiropractor can provide effective treatment for many spine conditions, especially if the condition has not progressed to an advanced stage. Chiropractic care, which involves several different types of spinal manipulation, can be a helpful component of a comprehensive treatment plan. Together with other treatments, it can help improve spinal motion, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain associated with degenerative disc disease. 

Before providing treatment, a chiropractor will confirm the precise source of a patient’s pain and will target it throughout treatment. With chiropractic care, as well as other supplementary treatment, many patients experience eventual relief. 

  1. Lifestyle Modifications

Making lifestyle modifications is one of the most effective ways to manage conditions and prevent them from further developing. Maintaining a proper diet is essential to promoting good spinal health and can greatly impact your spine, as well as easing the pressure placed on your discs since the spine supports the majority of the body’s weight. 

Although it might seem difficult  when it comes to your health, the dedicated team members at BEST Health System can help you identify the best nutritional path to take. Everyone is different, which means that everyone needs their own unique treatment plan. 

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In many cases, following a nonsurgical treatment plan for several months will decrease your annular tear symptoms enough for you to be able to resume normal activity. In more severe cases, however, symptoms may persist or even worsen. If your condition hasn’t responded to conservative and alternative therapies, you may want to consider minimally invasive spine surgery at BEST Health System. Our certified surgeons treat a full range of degenerative spine conditions through minimally invasive outpatient procedures that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.