If you are one of the millions of people who have experienced an annular tear, healing of the damaged intervertebral disc is likely with conservative, non-operative treatments. In fact, the vast majority of people who develop a fissure or tear in the outer disc wall – the annulus fibrosus – will never need any type of surgery.
How Does an Annular Tear Occur?
The cartilaginous discs that cushion adjacent vertebrae desiccate, thin, and weaken with age. . This makes them extremely susceptible to developing tears. These tears are usually asymptomatic. Localized pain develops when the tear becomes inflamed. When the tear is big enough to allow the inner gel-like disc material – nucleus pulposus – to leak into the spinal canal, disc herniation occurs. Herniated material may press on nearby spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself. This may lead to symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness. A herniated disc may also be referred to as a prolapsed disc, ruptured disc, or slipped disc.
The Process of Resorption
Annular tear healing may require a period of several weeks or months.Even annular tear resulting in disc herniation in some cases heal through aprocess called disc resorption. The physiologic complete mechanism by which absorption occurs is not clear. When the nucleus pulposus leaks into the spinal canal, inflammation results. Inflammation draws cells known as phagocytes. These cells may engulf and dissolve herniated material. In most cases, a combination of chemicals attack and break down of the herniated nucleus pulposus continues until the extruded material is completely resorbed by the body. Why some herniated discs do not undergo this process completely is not known.
The process of annular tear healing may be aided by conservative treatments such as prescription or over-the-counter analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, hot/cold therapy, intermittent rest, low-impact exercise, or massage. If weeks or months of these treatments do not provide the pain relief required and an MRI shows no reduction in the size of your annular tear, healing may not be imminent. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive, endoscopic surgical procedures which correct the cause of symptoms giving our patients opportunity for recovery. .