Aging is a primary cause of developing an annular tear

One of the most common causes of annular tears, which is a tear in the tough outer layer of a spinal disc, is something that can’t be avoided: the natural aging process. As we grow older, the parts of our spines naturally begin to deteriorate as a result of normal wear and tear. While this degeneration can happen anywhere along the spine, it is most commonly seen in the cervical (upper) spine and the lumbar (lower) spine. That’s because these two segments are the most flexible and also support the most bodyweight. The combination of mobility and weight strain tend to speed up deterioration, which can cause the onset of degenerative spine conditions like annular tears.

How natural changes can cause an annular tear

The spinal column is made of several parts that work in conjunction with one another to provide the strength and flexibility we required from our necks and backs. The main vertebral bodies are connected by facet joints and cushioned by rubbery spinal discs that allow the spine to bend and flex. With age these discs naturally begin to lose water and protein content, making them less able to withstand the pressure they are being placed under on a day-to-day basis. This can cause the outer layer, known as the annulus fibrosus, to become dry and brittle, which is what can lead to it tearing.

Although not necessarily painful, an annular tear can cause local irritation of nerves in the disc. It can also lead to a herniated disc, which is when inner disc material, called the nucleus pulposus, pushes out into the spinal column. Herniated discs can potentially cause nerve compression that results in symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.

Find relief from annular tear symptoms

In many cases, symptoms related to an annular tear can be effectively treated with a course of conservative treatments like rest, medication, physical therapy and lifestyle changes. If, however, this approach does not deliver acceptable results, surgery can become an option. Patients who are exploring their surgical options should contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the advantages our minimally invasive spine surgery can offer. By using muscle-sparing techniques we can perform our procedures on an outpatient basis and with less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

A member of our team can help you find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures by helping you receive your free MRI review.*