Annular tears occur when the tough exterior shell of a spinal disc develops a rip. In many cases, these small tears occur as result of the natural aging process, when the rings of cartilage within the discs wear down and become more prone to cracking. However, activities that add to the stress being placed on the discs on a regular basis can accelerate degeneration and increase the likelihood of conditions like an annular tear. For example, many people who become injured as a result of participation in sports or vigorous physical activity are diagnosed with an annular tear in relation to neck pain, back pain or other symptoms.
How sports can contribute to annular tears
Twisting and bending the spine in awkward positions or while exerting a great amount of force can lead to excessive pressure on the components of the spine. These movements are common in many sports and leisure activities. Here are a few of the ways that participation in certain sports can lead to annular tears:
- Golf. Serious golfers can routinely take hundreds of swings in a day, counting both practice swings and actually hitting the ball. Every swing involves quickly turning the spine in one direction to build up energy and then twisting the spine back the other way to unleash that energy. The force used to hit the ball can often end up negatively affecting the spine.
- Gymnastics. Most gymnasts will experience lower back pain due to their taxing routines, and some of these pains can be due to annular tears. Gymnasts routinely place excess pressure on their spines by bending deeply and turning during everything from tumbles to flips. And even with padded mats on the floor, a dismount landing can be tremendously jarring to the spine.
- Football. Many football players from all levels of the sport will endure neck and back pain due to the hits that they take on the field. Between tackles and hard contact with the ground, protective gear can only do so much to prevent injury. Football-related impacts can often be related to annular tears.
Minimally invasive treatments
If you have developed an annular tear due to forceful, repetitive strain exerted on your discs through sports injuries or other activities, your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan consisting of conservative treatment options. In many cases, patients diagnosed with an annular tear are able to achieve relief and a return to normal activity through treatments such as physical therapy, spinal injections, chiropractic care and medication. Surgery may be recommended if symptoms become severe and debilitating and are no longer responding to conservative treatment options. For patients who are considering surgery, USA Spine Care and our team of board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is an outpatient alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures. Contact us today for information.
We are happy to help you receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.