An annular tear is an injury to the annulus fibrosus, which is the outer ring of fibers that make up the intervertebral discs in the spine. If a tear of the disc occurs, and the nucleus of the disc pushes out, the condition is classified as a herniated or bulging disc. However, if no disc material is ruptured and protruding from the spine, then it is only an annular tear. The annulus fibrosus becomes more susceptible to annular tears over time, as it endures daily impact and stressors.
Annular Tear Symptoms
The primary symptom of an annular tear is pain, but the level of pain is determined by the severity of the tear. Some other symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness in the neck, back, arms, or legs
- Radiating pain or spasms
- Tingling and numbness in arms or legs
- Limited flexibility
- Pain that worsens with activity, sitting, bending, or twisting
Annular Tear Causes
Annular tears can occur in a few different ways:
Over time, the disc naturally loses hydration and flexibility, increasing its risk of tearing.
A sudden traumatic injury, such as a sports injury or a car accident, could cause an annular tear.
Consistent, repetitive motions can place chronic strain on the back, such as certain sports or physical labor, which can result in a disc tear. Improper form while lifting heavy weights or being active can also contribute to a tear.
Your genes contribute to your collagen levels, which is the substance that makes up your discs. Poor genetics can increase your likelihood of having an annular tear.
Excess body weight can place additional stress on your spine.
Sitting for extended periods of time, like working at a desk, can compress your discs and accelerate disc degeneration.
Types of Annular Tears
Annular tears occur because a disc in your back deteriorates over time or if a force causes the disc to rip. They can occur in three different ways:
- Radial Tear: tears that begin in the innermost portion of the disc and extend outward
- Concentric Tear: tears that develop in a ring that encircles the nucleus of the disc, usually from twisting the wrong way
- Transverse Tear: tears that begin in the outermost rim of the disc and extend inward
Annular Tear Treatment Options
Treatment for annular tear will depend on the severity of the annular tear and may include:
- Medications: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen
- Epidural steroid injections to provide pain relief and inflammation
- Spine-specialized physiotherapy to strengthen your back and provide exercise regimes to assist with annular tear pain relief
- Minimally invasive spinal surgery
At The Spine Pro, Dr. Hooman Melamed offers a wide range of minimally invasive, non-opioid surgical options to treat your pain caused by annular tears. Dr. Melamed specializes in minimally invasive procedures and will always take a holistic approach towards treatment, beginning with non-surgical therapies based on integrative medicine techniques, lifestyle changes, and an anti-inflammatory diet.