A diagnosis of an annular tear in an intervertebral disc sounds dreadful, but it’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds. To better grasp the implications, it’s important to know what the term means and how the condition is caused. An annular tear is a rupture or split in the fibrous outer wall (annulus fibrosus) of an intervertebral disc, which is one of the sponge-like cushions between the vertebrae. These ruptures, which are a common result of the aging process, rob the gel-like inner core of water content and weaken the fibrous outer wall. A ruptured annulus fibrosus is known as a herniated disc, a condition that remains asymptomatic most of the time.
When an annular tear in the disc produces symptoms
A herniated disc produces symptoms only when a portion of the torn outer wall or the extruded inner material makes contact with the spinal cord or an adjacent nerve root. When this happens, symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness can occur. More often than not, these symptoms can be managed using conservative treatment methods, including:
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic therapy
- Pain medicine
- Epidural steroid injections
If conservative treatment is not enough
If chronic pain or other symptoms associated with an annular tear in a disc persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, a physician might suggest surgery as an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to discover whether one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures can help you find relief from neck and back pain.