The term “L5/S1 annular tear” might sound like medical jargon, but it actually refers to a specific cause of lower back pain. An annular tear is a rip in the annulus fibrosus, a tough ring that surrounds each intervertebral disc to give the disc its shape and keeps the spinal vertebrae evenly separated. Over time, the continual rigors of daily activity can weaken the discs, sometimes to the point of rupture.
An annular tear can be asymptomatic. In most cases, this condition will result in inflammation that is resolved without treatment. However, if an annular tear progresses, it could allow the inner disc material to leak through the tear and into the vertebral canal. This gel-like substance could then come into contact with and compress a nerve root or the spinal cord itself, causing a number of painful symptoms.
The first component of the term “L5/S1 annular tear” is “L5/S1.” These letters and numbers indicate the location of the deteriorated intervertebral disc. 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 a very common condition, and the symptoms can often be treated successfully through a regimen of conservative, non-surgical techniques. In fact, an annular tear can sometimes heal completely after a few weeks of non-invasive treatment. Some examples of effective symptom remedies include:
- Low-impact exercises or stretching classes
- Deep massage
- Pain medication, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants
- Hot or cold therapy
- Pain patches
- Epidural injections
If conservative treatments prove to be ineffective for you, your physician might 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 procedures can help you find relief from neck and back pain without the need for traditional open spine surgery.