Annular tears are treated symptomatically. No current therapy currently exists to treat an annular tear itself. With conservative therapy, most tears disappear through the body’s natural healing process. Annular tears may allow extrusion of the central contents of the vertebral disc yielding a herniated disc. Extruded disc contents may compress spinal nerve rootlets or the spinal cord. For many individuals, conservative treatments work very well in managing the symptoms of nerve compression caused by disc herniation.
Causes of annular tears
An annular tear is a fissure that develops in the outer wall of an intervertebral disc. Aging discs naturally lose water content and thin. They become brittle and deform over time as part of the natural aging process. Also known as degenerative disc disease, this gradual degeneration of the disc is asymptomatic on its own. In fact, any individual likely has multiple small asymptomatic annular tears. Annular tears potentially allow extrusion of disc core material yielding disc herniation. When the gel-like inner material of the disc extrudes through the annular tear and places pressure on a spinal nerve, symptoms develop. This nerve compression is what causes the symptoms.
Nerve compression caused by an annular tear can result in multiple types of symptoms, but they often include:
- Chronic pain
- Pain that travels the length of the nerve
Most annular tears eventually heal on their own, but your doctor will likely suggest conservative treatments to either assist in the healing process, or to help manage your symptoms. However, some patients do not find relief from their symptoms through conservative treatments and instead turn to surgery. If this describes your situation, contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about our innovative endoscopic surgical procedures that allow avoidance of open spinal surgery. Allow LSI to help you recover spinal health.