Many people who develop an annular tear do not require surgery. This is because, unlike many other degenerative conditions of the spine, annular tears can heal on their own without surgical intervention.
The healing process usually begins shortly after the tear occurs. If a disc has not healed after three to six months and symptoms persist despite several attempts at conservative treatment, surgery may become an option.
Before considering surgery
While surgery can provide significant pain relief for annular tears, any surgical procedure should still be approached with caution. Physicians usually agree that annular tear surgery should only be used as a last resort if nonsurgical treatments do not produce the desired results. Options such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, prescription painkillers and epidural steroid injections should usually be considered before turning to surgery.
Deciding if surgery is right for you
Should conservative treatments not produce the desired results, it may be appropriate to consult with an experienced medical professional regarding surgical options. There are several traditional and minimally invasive procedures that can be used to treat an annular tear, and an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon can explain the benefits and techniques pertaining to each procedure.
Perhaps the most common situation in which a physician might recommend surgery is if an annular tear progresses to a herniated or prolapsed disc. A torn disc — as the name suggests — involves only a tear in the outside wall of a spinal disc. However, if this tear becomes large enough that the soft inside portion of the disc is able to leak out, additional complications can occur. Surgery may be a beneficial option in this situation.
Surgery might also be recommended if a tear occurs near the ends of the vertebrae (rather than in the central part of the disc). The disc wall does not contain any nerve endings and does not have its own blood supply, which means that many torn discs do not cause any localized pain. However, the endplates of each vertebrae have numerous nerves and nerve endings, and damage to these highly sensitive structures can lead to significant pain.
At USA Spine Care, we understand that the decision to undergo annular tears surgery requires great consideration, but our experienced, board-certified surgeons+ are here to help. USA Spine Care is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, and our team can help you find out if you are a candidate for our outpatient procedures. To learn more, contact us today.