An annular tear occurs when the outer layer of a spinal disc, called the annulus fibrosus, develops a rip or tear. Also called a fissure, annular tears are typically related to the natural aging process of the spine and develop due to loss of water and protein content that makes the discs less elastic. Annular tears very often develop in the lumbar spine due to the amount of weight this area supports combined with its flexibility.
This condition is not always painful, and may only cause minor irritation or no symptoms at all. If the condition is discovered incidentally, such as through an MRI for another condition, and is not causing any symptoms, then annular tear treatment is generally not recommended. In cases where a lumbar annular tear is causing pain and inflammation, doctors will typically begin treatment conservatively.
Recommended annular tear treatments
The best annular tear treatment options vary on a patient-to-patient basis and are based on factors like individual medical history, severity of symptoms and the degree to which movement is being affected. Although treatment plans will vary, here are four common options patients with an annular tear in the lumbar spine may expect to encounter:
- Rest. An annular tear can often improve on its own, so getting sufficient rest to take pressure off the spine and allow natural healing to occur can be beneficial. However, it is also important not to become overly sedentary, as this can have negative effects on the spine.
- Medication. Over-the-counter medication, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are commonly recommended by doctors to help manage disc pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy. Low-impact physical therapy can help to strengthen core muscles and improve spinal flexibility, which takes pressure off the discs and potentially relieves pain.
- Lifestyle changes. Your doctor may also recommend taking any necessary steps to improve overall health, especially spinal health and your body’s ability to heal itself. This may include eating a more nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, improving posture, quitting smoking and moderating alcohol consumption.
When to consider surgery for an annular tear
In certain cases, surgery can be recommended for a lumbar annular tear if symptoms have become chronic and conservative treatments are not effectively relieving pain. Surgery is an important decision and should be carefully considered after fully exploring all available options. If you are being recommended for surgery to treat an annular tear, contact USA Spine Care today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures, offering our patients a streamlined outpatient experience.^
Our dedicated team will be happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures. ?