Cervical annular tear

A cervical annular tear is a small tear in a disc in the cervical spine (neck). While this tear can be caused by many things, such as injury or trauma, it is often a result of the natural breakdown of the spine over time.

Understanding the causes and symptoms of a cervical annular tear will help you determine if the pain you are experiencing is spine related and whether or not it requires a visit to your physician to start treatment.

What causes an annular tear in the cervical spine?

An annular tear in the cervical spine can have different causes than a tear in the lumbar spine (lower back). This is because the two sections of the spine are responsible for different things. For example, the lumbar spine is responsible for supporting most of the body’s weight. Therefore, factors like weight gain can place unnecessary pressure on the discs in the lower back and can cause them to tear.

The cervical spine, however, is responsible for allowing the neck and head to move and pivot. Think about the number of times you shift your head during the day. Maybe you tilt your head to the side when you think about something or maybe you are constantly scanning your sideview and rearview mirrors while you drive. Each movement is performed by the discs cushioning the vertebrae and allowing them to rotate. Over time, the constant wear and tear of this movement can cause the disc to develop an annular tear.

Symptoms of an annular tear in the neck

An annular tear in the neck only shows symptoms of pain and discomfort when the inner disc fluid leaks out of the tear and touches a local nerve. This does not always happen; in fact, many people have an annular tear in the cervical spine and never realize it. However, if a nearby nerve is compressed, these common symptoms may appear:

  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Chronic pain
  • Pain radiating the length of the nerve (the shoulders, arms and hands)

Treatment options for an annular tear

Most cervical annular tears heal without treatment through the body’s natural resorption process. This process allows the body to mend the tear in the disc over a period of several months. However, if you are experiencing pain and symptoms, you may want to consult your doctor about some conservative treatment options that can reduce your symptoms while the body heals.

If after several months you are still in pain, you should reach out to our spine care specialists about the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute. We can review your MRI report or CT scan and help you find the best treatment option for your pain relief. While many patients will be recommended for a minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes a small portion of the damaged disc, some patients may be recommended for a minimally invasive stabilization surgery. This type of procedure removes the disc with the annular tear and replaces it with an artificial disc and bone grafts.

To learn more about why our minimally invasive surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today.