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Can an annular tear cause leg pain?

Annular tear is a condition where the outer layer, or annulus fibrosus, of a spinal disc develops a rip or tear. This is not necessarily a painful condition, with many patients often only finding out about it upon getting an X-ray or other form of diagnostic imagery. Disc tears usually develop along with natural changes that cause the discs to dry out and lose elasticity, which can lead to small cracks in the outer layer that can grow into larger tears.

While it may seem surprising that a small tear in a spinal disc could be related to lower body symptoms like leg pain, the two can be connected. Whether you’re researching potential causes of leg pain, or have been diagnosed with an annular tear and are also dealing with leg pain, we hope the following information can help.

How annular tears can lead to symptoms like leg pain

By itself, an annular tear will typically result in either no symptoms at all or very minor localized irritation. However, an annular tear can potentially rupture if pressure on the disc causes inner disc material to push through the tear. Disc material from a herniated disc in the lumbar (lower) spine can put pressure on spinal nerves that travel into the lower body, resulting in radiating symptoms in addition to local pain. Specific symptoms include the following:

  • Shooting pain into the hips, buttocks and legs
  • Tingling and numbness that can reach down to the toes
  • Cramping, spasms and muscle weakness in the legs

These symptoms are often called sciatica if they are the result of compression of the long sciatic nerve by a herniated disc, bone spur or other condition.

Treatment options for an annular tear

To help leg pain caused by an annular tear doctors will usually recommend conservative treatments such as physical therapy, massage, light to moderate exercise and chiropractic care. Medications and lifestyle changes, like posture correction or quitting smoking, may also be suggested. Annular tears and herniated discs can potentially heal on their own, but surgery may become an option if symptoms like leg pain remain severe after fully pursuing conservative options.

To learn more about treatment options for an annular tear, including our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact USA Spine Care today. Our procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery, offering patients a shorter recovery time and less risk of complication.^

If you’d like to find out if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures, ask for your free MRI review* from a member of our caring team.

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