Annular tear FAQ | frequently asked questions

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with an annular tear, this FAQ can help you better understand this condition. Getting information about your annular tear can ease some of the anxiety that you may be dealing with and help you find treatment to help you return to an active life.

Frequently asked questions


Q: What is an annular tear?

A: An annular tear is a small tear that develops in the wall of a spinal disc, possibly allowing the inner disc material (nucleus pulposus) to escape the disc and push into the spinal column.

Q: What causes an annular tear?

A: Specific causes of annular tears vary, but the condition is most commonly seen as a result of injury or age-related degeneration. Annular tears frequently develop in the neck and lower back where the spine is extremely flexible but also supports significant body weight.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: This condition is not necessarily painful, but may lead to symptoms when the tear irritates a nerve in the disc wall or if displaced disc material comes in contact with a spinal nerve. Shooting or burning pain, numbness, weakness and tingling in the extremities are all common in cases of nerve root or spinal cord compression. The location of these symptoms depends on the location of the affected disc, with the cervical (upper) spine causing symptoms in the shoulders, arms, hands and the lumbar (lower) spine affecting the lower body.

Q: What are the treatment options?

A: Treatment is usually first attempted nonsurgically with conservative options that attempt to manage pain and strengthen the neck or back to improve mobility. The use of anti-inflammatory drugs, low-impact exercise and hot/cold therapy are particularly popular. In some instances, surgery may be recommended when conservative treatment proves ineffective after being fully explored. There are many surgery options available, ranging from traditional open spine surgery to minimally invasive, outpatient techniques.

Q: Will I need surgery?

A: Surgery is almost always considered the treatment of last resort for patients who have exhausted nonsurgical options and are still experiencing pain and difficulty engaging in everyday activity.

Learn more

To learn more about the minimally invasive spine surgery we offer at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today. By using a muscle-sparing, less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, we are able to perform procedures on an outpatient basis, resulting in a shorter recovery time with less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

We’ll be happy to answer your questions and provide you with a no-cost review of your recent MRI report or CT scan to help you find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.*