An annulus fibrosus tear is a medical term used to describe a tear in a disc, usually in the lumbar spine (lower back).
While many times an annular tear does not show any symptoms, the torn disc material can come into contact with a nerve near the spine and cause a series of uncomfortable side effects. The difficulty diagnosing an annulus fibrosus tear — and many other degenerative spine conditions — is that the symptoms don’t always stay local to the spine. Sometimes, this pain travels the length of the nerve pathway and stretches into other areas of the body; sometimes the pain only appears in areas away from the spine, such as an arm or leg.
Understanding the areas of the body that can be affected by a damaged disc can help you and your physician determine the cause of your pain and your best option for treatment.
Symptoms along the nerve pathway
Pain and symptoms associated with an annular tear only appear when the damaged disc touches a nearby nerve either in the spine or spinal canal. Take a moment to review the nerve pathways in order to understand where the pain and symptoms of a pinched nerve can travel depending on where the nerve is located along the spine.
A nerve pinched in the following areas could result in pain that stretches through the nerve pathway, as described below:
- Cervical region (neck) — Head, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, diaphragm
- Thoracic region (upper and middle back) — Hands, chest, back, abdomen
- Lumbar region (lower back) — Buttocks, legs, feet, abdomen, reproductive organs
- Sacral region (pelvis) — Legs, reproductive organs
Treatment for symptoms associated with an annulus fibrosus tear
Depending on the severity and location, symptoms associated with a damaged disc typically can be managed using conservative methods such as pain medication, exercise, stretching, behavior modification and others.
However, if chronic symptoms continue after months of conservative treatment, surgery may become an option. If so, contact USA Spine Care to learn how one of our minimally invasive spine surgeries can help you find relief from neck and back pain. Our minimally invasive procedures are designed to treat damaged disc conditions by removing the portion of the (or the entire) disc that is pressing against the nerve. Many patients can find relief through our minimally invasive decompression surgery, though some patients may require a stabilization surgery to help relieve the pain of a damaged disc.
We believe that patients heal best in an environment of comfort and compassion. In fact, our patients report a satisfaction score of 98 and recommendation score of 98 out of 100.^ To find out what makes our patients satisfied and our surgery a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery,^ contact us at USA Spine Care today.