Four Stretches for Annular Tears

Annular Tear Pain 

A common cause of neck or back pain is an annular tear in one of the discs of the spine. Healthy discs are both strong and pliant, binding the vertebrae together, cushioning them from shocks, and preventing the bones from rubbing together. As we age, however, discs can become less elastic and more susceptible to damage. Since these structures are under near-constant stress from supporting the body’s weight and absorbing impacts, rips and annular tears can form in the annulus or outer wall. If this happens, then it can allow mucoprotein gel from inside the disc to seep out. While this process may not cause pain in and of itself, if the material puts pressure on a nerve root, it can trigger symptoms that range from mild tingling in the fingers or toes to severe pain at the site of the injury.

If you have routinely practiced these stretches and do not feel any relief after weeks, you may want to consider other conservative options, such as physical therapy. Our Cincinnati physical therapy professionals work alongside out other doctors to help develop a customized treatment plan for each of our patients.

Stretches to Manage Annular Tear Pain

Before devising an annular tear treatment strategy, your primary care physician will first order tests, such as a CT scan or MRI to pinpoint the location of the damaged disc. There are a number of conservative options that have proven to be effective in reducing pain caused by this condition. The following stretches can strengthen back muscles, loosen tight tendons and decompress the spine through gentle traction:

  • Pelvic tilt. While lying on your back with your knees bent, tighten the buttocks and abdominal muscles so that your back flattens to the floor. Tilt your pelvis up and hold for five seconds. Return to your original position, then arch the lower back so your pelvis tilts downward. Hold for five seconds and relax. Begin with five repetitions and work your way up to 10 a day.
  • Lower back stretch. Lying on your back, bend your knees toward your chest, then roll them to the right as far as is comfortable, and hold for five seconds. Return your knees to the center and repeat on the left. Complete two sets of three repetitions each, resting between sets. This can help to minimize the intensity of annular tear pain.
  • Knee-to-chest stretch. With your shoulders firmly against the floor and your knees bent, raise one knee to your chest as far as it will go using only your abdominal muscles. Grip the knee with your hands and hold for five seconds. Lower the leg, again using only your abs, and repeat with the other leg. Try to do this three times daily.
  • Chest raises. While lying on your stomach, place your hands directly under your shoulders and gently lift your chest off the ground while keeping your weight on your elbows. Hold for five seconds and lower your chest back to the floor. Repeat five times.

Treatment at BEST Health System

Sometimes, at-home stretching is not enough. It may take a professional to help guide you through new stretches and exercises to manage your pain. Our Cincinnati physical therapy professionals are dedicated to helping patients feel their BEST.

If you have tried conservative treatment methods for annular tears, such as yoga, and it has not been effective, you may be a candidate for surgery.  It is always important to discuss all your options with your primary care physician to ensure you have decided on the best treatment route. 

At BEST Health System, we believe in taking the least invasive surgery route. Due to medical advances, intense open-back surgery is no longer the norm. In fact, at BEST Health System, we are able to perform minimally invasive procedures with just a 1-inch incision. Contact us today to learn more about annular tear treatment with BEST.