The diagnosis of an L5/S1 annular tear may sound like medical jargon, but it actually explains a specific cause of lower back pain. An annular tear is a tear in the outer fibrous ring of one of the intervertebral discs that normally cushion the spine. The fibrous annulus is a tough wall that gives the disc its shape and normally keeps the vertebrae evenly separated. Over time, the rigors of daily life weaken the disc to the point of rupture. Somewhat surprisingly, this condition may be asymptomatic in itself. More commonly, an annular tear results in inflammation, which shortly resolves. However, should the annular tear progress and disc material rupture into the vertebral canal, it may contact and compress one of the nerve roots or the spinal cord itself, and a number of painful symptoms can be experienced.
The first component of the name, L5/S1 annular tear, is the “L5/S1.” These letters and numbers indicate the location of the deteriorated intervertebral disc. In this case, the L5 refers to the fifth lumbar vertebra and the S1 indicates the first sacral vertebra. Thus, the deteriorated disc is located between these two vertebrae in the lower back.
Treating an Annular Tear
An L5/S1 annular tear is extremely common and treatment usually only requires a regimen of conservative, nonsurgical techniques. In fact, an annular tear can sometimes heal entirely after a few weeks of treatment. Some examples of effective herniated disc treatments include:
- Pain medication, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants
- Hot or cold therapy
- Epidural injections
- Pain patches
- Low-impact exercises or stretching classes
- Deep massage
In the event that nonsurgical treatments prove ineffective, your doctor may recommend surgery to treat your L5/S1 annular tear. If this is your situation, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how one of our minimally invasive, outpatient endoscopic procedures can help you recover spinal health without classical open spine surgery. .