Annular tear symptoms can arise when the annulus fibrosus (the tough exterior) of an intervertebral disc rips, causing inflammation. The outer layers of the annulus fibrosus near the vertebral endplates are replete with nerve fibers that are very sensitive to pain. These nerve fibers tend to react very strongly when they come into contact with the nucleus pulposus (the soft inner core of the disc), causing many patients to experience discomfort and a number of other symptoms of an annular tear.
Since the outer wall of the annulus fibrosus is highly innervated, patients with an annular tear may experience a great deal of pain. When a tear extends from the center of the disc to its outer layer, the nucleus pulposus can spill out to the surrounding tissue. This condition, which is called a herniated disc, can be especially painful. Other symptoms associated with a herniated disc include:
- Weakness in the arms and/or legs
While a patient might experience any, or all, of the above annular tear symptoms, sometimes the condition is completely asymptomatic, leaving the patient completely unaware of his or her spinal issue.
Most annular tears are a result of the natural aging process. Since the neck and back are responsible for bearing most of the body’s weight, they are susceptible to a great deal of wear over time. By the age of 30, most people begin to experience some degree of degeneration in their intervertebral discs. This degeneration weakens the annulus fibrosus and thus can lead to annular tears. Traumatic injury can also cause an annular tear, which is typically seen in individuals who participate in high-impact sports, such as gymnastics and football, and in people with strenuous occupations.
Those experiencing annular tear symptoms should contact their back specialist or primary care physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment of their spinal condition. Though the pain associated with an annular tear can be quite debilitating for some patients, several treatment options are available.