An annular tear at the L4/L5 vertebral level is an extremely common form of spinal degeneration. Even a small tear can cause inflammation, which may provide an explanation for chronic lower back pain. While an annular tear can result from a traumatic injury, it is more often related to the degenerative changes that occur with age. Over time, the intervertebral discs that cushion the spine lose water and protein content, which weakens their outer walls and makes the discs more susceptible to damage. Eventually, an annular tear can develop in the disc’s outer annulus, which could allow the gel-like substance from the center of the disc to leak through and spread into the spinal canal. This condition, which is known as disc herniation, can increase the degree of inflammation and the intensity of the symptoms experienced. Should the nucleus material compress or irritate one of the spinal nerve roots in the canal, additional symptoms could result.
Symptoms of a disc herniation
An annular tear at the L4/L5 level can sometimes explain chronic pain or other symptoms in the lower body, but more often than not the condition goes undetected. In fact, disc herniation is a common part of the aging process, and is experienced by many people at some point during their lives. A herniated disc becomes symptomatic usually when disc material comes into contact with and compresses a nerve in the spinal canal. When a nerve is compressed, an annular tear at the L4/L5 vertebral level can lead to:
- Chronic lower back pain
- Soreness or stiffness in the joints
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- A feeling of heat or burning along the sciatic nerve
- Sciatic pain
Various treatment options
The appropriate treatment for an annular tear depends largely on the cause and severity of the damaged disc. Nevertheless, most physicians begin annular tear treatment conservatively, with a combination of non-invasive pain management and nerve decompression techniques. For example, hot/cold therapy, massage, stretching techniques, physical therapy and pain medication have all proven to be effective in treating annular tears.
Should your pain persist through several weeks of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how one of our innovative, minimally invasive surgical procedures could provide you with the pain relief you need. If you are experiencing pain resulting from an annular tear at the L4/L5 level, call today for more information and to request a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.