A spinal disc has two parts, the outer annulus fibrosis and the inner nucleus pulposus. The annulus contains many pain-sensitive nerves. An annular tear causes pain varying from moderate to severe.
The following factors can lead towards the development of an annular tear:
- Aging – Due to the continued stress and pressure placed on intervertebral discs, they break down over time. By age 30, discs have begun to weaken and dry out, making them susceptible to an annular tear.
- Traumatic injury – High-impact sports ( hockey, gymnastics, football, etc.) may injure neck and back discs. Automobile accidents can also cause traumatic injury leading to an annular tear. Excessive force, no matter the cause, can lead to injury of the annulus pulposus.
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The annular tear causes multiple symptoms. Most patients complain of pain in the neck or back. Depending on the location of the affected disc, traveling pain, weakness and tingling may also be felt in the extremities. It is worth noting that some patients are completely asymptomatic, though a majority does feel some degree of pain.
Most patients can find relief from pain and discomfort associated with an annular tear through conservative treatments such as medication and hot/cold therapy. Patients should consult a physician or back specialist to learn about a variety of treatment and prevention techniques tailored to their specific needs.