Is Sciatica a Symptom of an Annular Tear?

An annular tear can lead to a variety of symptoms, including sciatica. This condition occurs when the outer shell of a spinal disc breaks open. The hard-working discs serve an important role in cushioning the vertebrae and providing support to the neck or back while also acting as a shock absorber for the spine. Over time, they can lose effectiveness as they naturally become weaker and less supple due to age-related degeneration. If a disc is forced to sustain too much pressure, either from the cumulative stress of daily movement or sudden trauma, an annular tear can develop. 

Sometimes, an annular tear can heal on its own as the body naturally responds. However, some cases of an annular tear can worsen with time and require surgical treatment to ensure the condition is controlled. 

What are other symptoms of an annular tear?

If an annular tear leads to any form of nerve compression, this condition may lead to neck and back pain, numbness, tingling sensations, or muscle weakness. Sciatica forms when an annular tear that develops in the lower back compresses the sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body that runs along both sides of the lumbar spine and down each leg to the feet. If this area becomes inflamed, the patient may feel symptoms such as an “electrical” sensation that runs down one leg. Other symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain that is mild, dull, achy, sharp, or jolting
  • Pain that intensified with sitting, coughing, or sneezing
  • Leg weakness or muscle cramps
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations that radiate from the lower back

Sciatica Treatment

If you are experiencing symptoms of sciatica, the first step is to receive a proper diagnosis. After diagnosis, a patient will typically try out conservative treatment options such as over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, or physical activity. To a patient who is experiencing severe discomfort, a medical professional may recommend muscle relaxants or spinal injections. 

If these conservative treatment options are ineffective, the patient may be a candidate for a surgical procedure. The amazing healthcare professionals at BEST Health System are highly skilled individuals with decades of medical experience. If you are interested in learning more about the services available, please contact our team today.