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Can a steroid injection be used to treat an annular tear?

While the term “annular tear” may sound intimidating, this degenerative spinal condition is actually fairly common and its symptoms can often be managed through nonsurgical treatment. Annular tears are rips that develop in the protective outer wall of a spinal disc. Most often, they occur when a disc that has undergone age-related degeneration and has become fragile is placed under pressure. While they can occur anywhere in the spine, most annular tears develop in the lower back area (lumbar spine) because of the amount of the body’s weight that this area supports.

An annular tear usually doesn’t result in severe symptoms unless the inner gel-like contents of the disc escape through the rip in the disc wall and impact the spinal cord or a nerve root. When this occurs, symptoms can be localized or radiate to other parts of the body and can include pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and back spasms.

Epidural steroid injections to treat annular tears

If you’ve been diagnosed with an annular tear and you are experiencing chronic pain, an epidural steroid injection is one of the treatment options that your physician may recommend. The goal of an epidural injection is to reduce the inflammation around a compressed nerve root and, hopefully, minimize the pain. While they can be effective, they are a temporary solution and usually have to be administered multiple times over several months.

Other conservative treatments that can help minimize the symptoms of an annular tear include over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy and the use of hot and cold compresses. You may also want to consider lifestyle modifications — such as losing weight and avoiding high-impact activities — to help improve your overall spine health.

Treating an annular tear with surgery

If you’ve exhausted your conservative treatment options and are still experiencing chronic pain, it might be time to speak with your physician about surgery. While many doctors recommend open neck or back surgery, you have a minimally invasive option at USA Spine Care. We can provide a free MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for our outpatient procedures, which are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

Contact USA Spine Care today if you would like additional information about our minimally invasive annular tear treatment options.

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