An annular tear occurs when a rip or tear develops in the outer layer, called the annulus fibrosus, of a spinal disc. While this condition can have several causes, the most common risk factor is the natural aging and deterioration of the spine over time.
With increased age, discs in the spine lose water and protein content. This weakens the disc and causes it to decrease in height and become less able to withstand the pressure of the surrounding vertebrae. With natural body motion and the weakening of the disc, small tears often develop in the tough outer layer of the disc. Most tears are small and asymptomatic. Occasionally a tear is large enough to break through the outer layer of the disc and allow the inner disc fluid to escape into the spinal canal. This is defined as a herniated disc and could causes irritation or compression of nearby nerves. Symptoms of this nerve compression can include pain, weakness, tingling and numbness in the area where the affected nerve travels.
Can you do anything to avoid it?
While complete annular tear prevention might not be achievable, there are steps you can take to keep your spine healthy and strong to reduce the risk of developing this and other degenerative spine conditions.
Because your spine is responsible for carrying the weight of the body and allowing for basic movements, certain factors that reduce the pressure placed on the spine can have benefits to your long-term spinal health. These lifestyle changes include:
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Maintaining a good posture
- Eating a healthy diet
- Moderating alcohol consumption
These recommendations are ways to maintain a strong spine and help combat the natural degeneration that takes place. However, even if symptoms do develop, there are a wide range of treatment options available.
Treating an annular tear
Many patients can manage symptoms through a program of conservative nonsurgical therapy that aims to strengthen the muscles around the spine while helping to manage pain and other symptoms. Whether it is physical therapy, massage, hot/cold therapy or pain medication, your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan that is right for you. If you have tried conservative treatments for weeks or months with no results, surgery can become a serious consideration.
At USA Spine Care, we provide a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Our minimally invasive spine surgery has helped thousands of patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. To treat the full range of spinal disc conditions and severity, we perform both minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures.
Because our surgery is performed with a small incision and avoids disruption of the surrounding muscles, our patients experience a lower risk of complication and a shorter recovery time^ than patients who undergo traditional open back surgery. For more information about our minimally invasive spine surgery for an annular tear, contact USA Spine Care today.
We’re happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.