An annular tear, or small tear in the tough outer layer of a disc in the spine, is most common in the lower back (lumbar spine). The reason an annular tear often develops in the lumbar spine as opposed to other areas of the spine is that the lower back is responsible for supporting the weight and movements of the body.
The discs in the lumbar spine act as shock absorbers for every impact and movement of the body, allowing the surrounding vertebrae to move and pivot without damage. As a disc wears down and tears due to increased weight gain and repetitive motion, the symptoms described in the following article may develop. These symptoms may vary depending on the location of the damaged disc.
Breaking it down by lumbar disc segment
The body parts that are affected by symptoms depend on the location of the annular tear. The largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve, is located near the lumbar spine, and nerve compression in the lower back typically results in the set of symptoms known as sciatica. Understanding your symptoms may help your doctor determine the location of your annular tear.
Take a moment to review the most common symptoms depending on the location of the lumbar spine:
- L1 — pain, numbness or loss of sensation in the thigh or groin area
- L2 — diminished strength in the hip flexor; pain, numbness or loss of sensation in the thighs
- L3 — pain or numbness in the thighs, diminished patellar reflex or quadriceps weakness
- L4 — numbness or loss of feeling in the feet, diminished patellar tendon reflex, quadriceps weakness or pain in the legs
- L5 — loss of sensation in the feet or toes; numbness or weakness in the hips or legs
Treatment for an annular tear in the lumbar spine
While the body can generally heal an annular tear through the natural resorption process, symptoms can be managed using conservative treatments to offset the pain while the disc is repaired. These conservative treatments, such as pain medication, physical therapy, chiropractic care, stretching or low-impact exercise, are often effective methods of pain relief.
However, if chronic sciatica continues after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, contact USA Spine Care to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery. We can treat an annular tear by removing the disc from touching the nerve root that is causing your pain and discomfort. This is often accomplished through our minimally invasive decompression surgery, which only removes a portion of the disc, though sometimes removal of the full disc requires our stabilization surgery.
Our minimally invasive approach to spine surgery allows our patients to experience a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery with a shorter recovery time.^ Reach out to our dedicated team today and request a free MRI review* to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive annular tear procedures.