A complete guide to annular tear treatment

An annular tear, or a rip in the outer layer (annulus fibrosus) of a spinal disc, may never cause noticeable symptoms when the tear is small. However, if the tear irritates the nerves on the disc’s surface, it can cause pain within the disc itself. In addition, the tear can allow the softer material from the disc’s inner core (nucleus pulposus) to move out of the disc and into the spinal column. When this occurs, the nuclear material may inflame and compress surrounding nerve roots or the spinal cord, causing symptoms like radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

Conservative annular tear treatment

When these symptoms occur, but are not severe enough to prevent the individual from participating in day-to-day activities, the patient’s physician will often recommend one or more conservative treatment methods to manage their annular tear symptoms. Some commonly prescribed conservative treatments are:

  • Rest
  • Pain medication (over-the-counter or prescription)
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Physical therapy, stretching, strength training and low-impact exercise
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatment

Additionally, patients may benefit from the use of alternative treatment to relieve pressure on pinched nerves and reduce inflammation. These treatments may include massage therapy, acupuncture, yoga, herbal medications or chiropractic care.

Surgical treatment for an annular tear

When the use of conservative and alternative annular tear treatment is ineffective in managing a patient’s symptoms, surgery may be the best option. During surgery, the most common goal is to decompress nerve roots and the spinal cord from being pinched by due to the presence of an annular tear. In more serious cases, the surgeon may suggest completely removing the torn disc and fusing surrounding vertebrae together with implants and a bone graft. These surgeries are traditionally performed as open spine procedures, which involve large incisions and hospitalization. If your physician has recommended open spine surgery to treat your annular tear, it is important to consider all your surgical options, such as the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. We offer several annular tear treatment methods, including minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures.

With a smaller risk or both infection and complications, as well as a reduced recovery period^, our procedures are safer and effective alternatives to open spine surgery. To learn more about the advanced procedures we offer to treat annular tears and other degenerative spine conditions, or to see if you are a candidate for minimally invasive, outpatient annular tear treatment at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today.