An annular tear is commonly associated with age related degeneration, and describes a condition in which the tough exterior layer of an intervertebral disc (annulus fibrosis) tears or rips. Intervertebral discs function to support the bones or vertebrae throughout our spine and absorb shock. Annual tears in a spinal disc are usually asymptomatic unless the jelly like material from inside of the disc (nucleus pulpus) extrudes out and irritates surrounding nerves.
What Causes Annular Tear?
An annular tear is symptomatic of disc disruption or damage. The most common causes of an annular tear include degeneration due to aging, or a traumatic injury such as a sports injury or automobile accident.
Annular Tear Symptoms
- Annular Tear in the Neck – Some symptoms of an annular tear in the neck can include neck pain, weakness, numbness and/or tingling and pain that radiates along the nerve path.
- Annular Tear in the Back – Some symptoms of an annular tear in the back can include pain that extends from the back to the legs, numbness and/or tingling in the legs, or weakness in the legs.
Annular Tear in the Neck (Cervical)
An annular tear in the neck is the result of a weakened cervical disc. When a disc in the neck becomes destabilized over time, the outer layer, also known as the annulus fibrosis, may crack or tear. When this tough, exterior wall cracks open the nucleus pulposus may seep out, leading to other symptoms.
Annular Tear in the Back (Lumbar)
An annular tear is a common side effect of age related degeneration and describes a condition in which the tough exterior layer of an intervertebral disc (annulus fibrosis) tears or rips. Annual tears are usually asymptomatic unless the jelly like material from inside of the disc (nucleus pulpus) extrudes out and irritates surrounding nerves.
The MISI Approach to treating Annular Tear
At the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute, we always explore the most conservative, non-surgical treatments first. Usually, symptoms of an annular tear will respond to a targeted course of therapy which can include exercise, stretching, hot or cold packs, anti-inflammatory medication, massage and/or physical therapy. If these treatments fail to alleviate the pain, your physician may recommend surgery. In this case, depending on the severity and location, outpatient minimally invasive procedures can be considered.
Dr. Bryce Benbow has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.