Annular tear treatment — conservative, alternative and surgical options

An annular tear is a tear in the tough outer layer of a spinal disc. This outer layer is called the annulus fibrosus and is comprised of a tough, elastic material that allows the disc to bend and compress while still maintaining the proper spacing between the surrounding vertebrae.

When the annulus fibrosus undergoes continual pressure from the surrounding vertebrae, often coupled with weight gain and the natural degeneration of the discs with age, a tear can develop. This annular tear can lead to the extrusion of inner disc material, or nucleus pulposus, into the spinal canal, which can compress a nerve and cause painful symptoms.

If you have been diagnosed with an annular tear, your doctor will discuss with you the treatment options available. Not all annular tear treatment options are surgical — in fact, many patients are able to find relief through conservative methods. Your doctor will help you find the best treatment option for your needs.

Annular tear conservative treatments

In many cases, annular tear treatment begins conservatively. Conservative treatment is designed to reduce the symptoms and promote the overall health of the spine while the progress of the condition is monitored.

Common conservative treatments recommended for an annular tear can include the following:

  • Medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight loss, when necessary
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Stretches
  • Low-impact exercises
  • Corticosteroid injections

Sometimes, patients may ask about adding alternative treatments to their conservative treatment plan to help with pain relief. Alternative annular tear treatment options may include acupuncture or chiropractic care. You should always consult your physician before making any additions or changes to your prescribed treatment plan.

Alternative treatments for an annular tear

Alternative annular tear treatment methods can include the following approaches to pain relief:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal remedies
  • Massage therapy

While many patients will find relief through conservative and/or alternative treatments after several months, some patients may not. If you have exhausted all nonsurgical treatment options and you are still suffering from chronic pain, your doctor may recommend spine surgery.

At Laser Spine Institute, we provide minimally invasive spine surgery designed to help treat common spine conditions, including an annular tear. Our procedures involve a less than 1-inch incision, sparing muscles and allowing for an outpatient procedure to reduce our patients’ risk of complication and shorten the recovery time^ compared to traditional open spine surgery. If you have been diagnosed with an annular tear and conservative treatment has not worked to relieve your pain, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the advantages we offer our patients.

When you reach out to our dedicated team, request a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.