An annular tear at the L4–L5 vertebral level is an extremely common form of spinal degeneration. As the spine ages, the pressure of increased body weight and years of repetitive motions begin to wear down the components of the spine, placing pressure on the vertebrae and compressing the discs. If a disc in between the vertebrae is pinched for too long, the tough outer lining of the disc can form a crack from the constant pressure. This is called an annular tear.
The lumbar spine (lower back) is the most common location for an annular tear, specifically at the disc between the L4 and L5 vertebrae. This is because the lumbar spine is responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight, which means that the compression and deterioration that happen to the spine as a result of age and weight gain is compounded in the lumbar spine.
While the symptoms of an annular tear are sometimes undetectable, the most common symptoms of local and radiating pain are felt when the damaged disc impacts a nerve root in the spinal canal.
Symptoms of an annular tear
The symptoms of an annular tear in the lumbar spine are often dependent on the severity of the condition. For example, a mild annular tear may cause minute pain in certain bending or sitting positions, while a severely torn disc may cause numbness and tingling in the buttock or leg, as well as extreme pain in the lower back.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you may experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Chronic lower back pain
- Soreness or stiffness in the joints
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- A feeling of heat or burning along the sciatic nerve
- Sciatic pain
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should consult your physician to determine the best treatment options available to you. You can often reduce your pain with a conservative treatment method, though some patients may be required to undergo spine surgery.
Various treatment options for an annular tear
Many times, patients with an annular tear can find pain relief through conservative, nonsurgical methods of treatment, such as physical therapy and lifestyle changes or pain medication. However, if several months of conservative treatment have not resulted any a decrease in pain and symptoms, you may be recommended to undergo spine surgery.
At USA Spine Care, we offer an alternative treatment for patients recommended for traditional spine surgery. Our minimally invasive procedures offer patients a safer surgery with a higher patient satisfaction score (98) than traditional open back surgery.^ Every year, USA Spine Care helps thousands of patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain .^
For more information about our minimally invasive procedures to treat an annular tear, or to consult a spine care expert about your MRI report, please contact us today.