An annular tear is a small rip in the annulus fibrosus, or tough outer wall of a spinal disc. This condition is fairly common in individuals over the age of 50 and often doesn’t produce noticeable symptoms. That’s because annular tears can occur without affecting the overall integrity of the spinal disc, so the disc remains intact but mild pain might occur if nerves in the disc wall are irritated by the tear. If an annular tear progresses to the point of a disc rupture, however, and the nucleus of the disc pushes through the tear and protrudes into the spinal canal, nerve compression becomes more likely and painful symptoms can develop.
Causes of an annular tear
There are two prominent annular tear causes — spinal degeneration due to aging and trauma. While the majority of cases are related to the inevitable deterioration that elements of the spine go through after years of wear and tear, it is also possible for an annular tear to occur during a collision in a sporting event, a car accident or a similar impact-inducing incident. There are also factors that can make a spinal disc more susceptible to an annular tear, such as obesity, heavy tobacco use and poor posture.
No matter what the underlying causes of your annular tear are, you could find yourself dealing with symptoms that make it difficult for you to enjoy daily life to the fullest. When a disc tear leads to nerve compression, you may experience chronic pain at the site of the damaged disc as well as pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness that radiate along a nerve pathway to other parts of the body.
What are my annular tear treatment options?
In many cases, the symptoms of an annular tear can be managed through conservative treatment. Once your diagnosis has been made, your doctor will likely suggest your try a combination of conservative treatments such as pain medications, physical therapy, hot and/or cold therapy and targeted periods of rest to reduce your pain and inflammation. If you attempt these types of treatment for several weeks or months and your symptoms persist, however, you may need to consider surgery.
USA Spine Care is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and offers outpatient procedures that utilize less than a 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques and require no lengthy recovery.^ If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for our surgeries, we would be happy to provide you with a free MRI review.*
Contact USA Spine Care today for more information about our minimally invasive approach to annular tear surgery.