An annular tear occurs when the outer layer of a spinal disc, called the annulus fibrosus, develops a rip or tear. 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 develop in the lumbar spine due to the amount of weight this area supports combined with its flexibility.
This condition is not always painful, and may only cause minor irritation or no symptoms at all. If the condition is discovered incidentally, such as through an MRI for another condition, and it is not causing any symptoms, then annular tear treatment is generally not recommended. In cases where a lumbar annular tear is causing pain and inflammation, doctors will typically begin treatment conservatively.
Natural degeneration is the leading cause of annular tears. With age, our bones tend to dry out and become brittle, leading to bone-on-bone contact. This can put extra strain on the back and cause back pain and discomfort. Aside from age degeneration, there are other sources that can be responsible for causing annular tears, including:
Upon diagnosis of an annular tear, your doctor will likely suggest that you attempt a combination of conservative treatments that are designed to reduce your pain and inflammation. Options may include physical therapy, steroid injections, and over-the-counter medications. You may also want to incorporate alternative treatments such as massage therapy, yoga, and chiropractic care, though you should consult with your doctor before attempting any type of treatment.
If your symptoms don’t respond to conservative and alternative treatments, you may be a candidate for surgery. BEST Health System’s skilled team specializes in non-invasive procedures that will allow you to return to your daily tasks soon after the operation. If you are interested in learning more about BEST and our procedures, reach out to our team today!
Some patients with annular tears might not experience any symptoms if the tear is not severe. However, depending on the location and the severity of the tear, it could cause debilitating pain.
Common symptoms include:
Localized pain caused by inflammation
Tingling or numbness
Pain radiating through nerve pathways
If you are experiencing these symptoms and they are preventing you from your daily tasks, you should consult with a doctor to get an official diagnosis and ensure the tear does not worsen.
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If you are experiencing back pain, you do not have to suffer in silence. Get in touch with our dedicated team and get started on your path to recovery.