An annular tear refers to a rip or tear that develops on the annulus fibrosus, or outer layer, of a spinal disc. These discs support and cushion the vertebrae, which puts them under a tremendous amount of pressure every day and can eventually lead to the development of cracks or tears. Annular tears are not always painful, but can develop symptoms if the tear irritates local nerve fibers on the disc. Disc tears also have the potential of developing into a herniated disc if the tear is deep enough for inner disc material, called the nucleus pulposus, to push out into the spinal column.
Annular tears and other disc conditions are very often age-related, which means there is only so much anyone can do to control the progression of the tear. However, there are certain activities doctors will often recommend avoiding due to the negative effect they can have on the health of the spine.
Patients with an annular tear should avoid the following activities
If you’ve been diagnosed with an annular tear, talk to your doctor about specific activities you should avoid based on your condition and medical history. Here are four that are commonly recommended for patients to stay away from:
- Sitting for long periods of time. Prolonged periods of sitting add to the pressure placed on the discs, especially if you are using improper posture. If you have a desk job, break up stints in the chair with quick walks, stretch breaks and time at a standing desk, if possible.
- Repetitive bending and twisting. Jobs or pastimes that involve frequent bending, twisting, or lifting may worsen the tear. If you can’t avoid these activities, always practice proper technique and take steps to minimize the impact on the spine.
- High-impact sports. Sports such as football, wrestling, gymnastics, weightlifting and golf all put undue stress on the spinal anatomy.
- Smoking. Using tobacco products can decrease circulation to the spinal discs, which already receive a relatively small amount of blood.
Promoting the long-term health of the spine
It is possible for an annular tear to heal with time and by taking steps to minimize stress on the spine while maximizing the flow of nutrients to the discs. Eating a healthy diet, practicing good posture, strengthening your core muscles and maintaining a healthy weight are all important healthy lifestyle choices you can make if you’ve been diagnosed with an annular tear.
If your condition has become painful, conservative treatments such as physical therapy, massage, spinal injections and chiropractic care are often effective, but surgery can become an option if weeks or months of conservative treatment have not brought the relief necessary for a good quality of life. Patients in this situation should reach out to the caring and dedicated team at USA Spine Care' of America to learn more about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ have helped thousands of patients at our outpatient centers across the United States.
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