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Home » Spine Conditions » Annular Tear » What is the Difference Between an Annular Tear and a Herniated Disc?

What is the difference between an annular tear and a herniated disc?

Though very similar, annular tears and herniated discs are two different conditions that can occur due to spinal degeneration. To better understand these conditions, let’s first discuss the factors that can cause them.

A healthy spinal disc lies between two vertebrae in the spine and has a tough outer shell and a gel-like inner core. Its natural elasticity allows it to experience pressure from various body movements and quickly return to its normal shape. As we age, spinal discs become brittle and lose water content, making them susceptible to damage. An annular tear, or a small rip in the disc’s outer wall, can develop when a weakened disc is subjected to sudden or constant pressure. In many cases, these tears are small and don’t result in noticeable symptoms or affect the integrity of the disc. However, if the pressure on the disc causes its inner, gel-like contents to push through the tear and escape into the spinal canal, this is known as a herniated disc. This often leads to compression of the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root, and symptoms such as radiating pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling can develop.

Nonsurgical treatment options

If an annular tear has resulted in a disc herniation and you are experiencing symptoms that are interfering with your enjoyment of day-to-day life, you will be pleased to learn that there are a variety of treatment options that could help you find the relief you are looking for. In many cases, patients are able to relieve some of the pressure on the damaged disc — and thus reduce their symptoms — by following a regimen that strengthens the muscles supporting the spine and improves overall spine health. This can include:

  • Shedding excess pounds
  • Avoiding frequent bending and heavy lifting
  • Having epidural injections to reduce inflammation
  • Eating a healthier diet
  • Eliminating tobacco and alcohol use
  • Practicing better posture
  • Doing targeted strengthening exercises

Additionally, many individuals choose to incorporate alternative treatments such as chiropractic care, massage therapy and restorative yoga into their treatment regimens.

Treatment at USA Spine Care

If your symptoms don’t respond to conservative and alternative treatments after several weeks or months, you may need to consider surgery. While many physicians endorse traditional open spine surgery, USA Spine Care offers minimally invasive annular tear surgery that is often clinically appropriate and provides many advantages versus traditional open spine surgery.^ Our team can provide a free MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for our outpatient procedures. Contact us today to learn how.

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