What is an Annular Tear?
The discs of the spine are extremely resilient structures. They have to be, considering they serve as shock absorbers for the vertebrae, absorbing a lifetime of impacts from walking, running, jumping, and climbing steps. Eventually, however, this constant stress begins to take its toll. Discs can degenerate in several ways, and most people over 50 have some form of disc damage. An annular tear is a breach in the outer wall of a disc. These tears usually develop slowly over time and generally do not produce symptoms at first. Although they can form in any disc, they are most common in the lower or lumbar region of the spine.
An annular tear is the first stage in what may eventually become a herniation or rupture. This occurs when a tear increases to the point where it creates an opening for material from inside the disc to seep out. Suppose this thick fluid — called mucoprotein gel — puts pressure on a nearby nerve root. In that case, it can lead to many different symptoms, including pain at the injury site and numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and burning sensations along the length of the affected nerve.
Solutions for Annular Tear Pain
If you are experiencing severe pain from an annular tear, the first thing to do is see your primary care physician, who can order tests to determine the exact location of the damaged disc. Once this is known, you’ll likely be prescribed one or more conservative treatments to help manage your discomfort. These include:
- Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs — to reduce pain and swelling
- Starting a low-impact exercise routine — to strengthen back muscles
- Stretching — to increase ligament and tendon flexibility
- Applying alternating cold and hot compresses to the injury site — to diminish swelling, relax muscles and increase blood flow to the disc
- Incorporating limited periods of rest — to relieve stress and allow the spine to decompress
Surgery at BEST Health System
Many patients also report success with alternative pain management techniques, such as acupuncture, yoga, massage therapy, and meditation. In many cases, conservative strategies can provide significant relief from symptoms during the recovery process. However, if neck or back pain continues after several months of treatment, surgery may be necessary to provide long-term relief.
If you are interested in learning more about minimally invasive surgery with BEST Health System, contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our excellent surgeons.