How long does it take to recover from an annular tear?

The amount of time it takes to recover from an annular tear varies from one person to the next. Some people — especially those who are younger and in better overall health — may only experience a few weeks of down time. Others, however, may experience a longer recovery process, with symptoms persisting for a year or longer.

The natural process of resorption

In the vast majority of cases, annular tears heal on their own through a process known as resorption. When the body recognizes that a disc has been damaged, it can send white blood cells to the disc to heal the tear. This process can take several weeks or (more commonly) several months.

While a patient’s body works to heal an annual tear, he or she may consider conservative treatments to help alleviate pain or other symptoms caused by the condition. Common nonsurgical therapies that may be recommended during the resorption process include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise and strength training
  • Ultrasound treatments
  • Epidural steroid injections

Usually, these therapies provide enough symptom relief that an individual can endure the healing process. However, there are occasional situations in which a person’s symptoms do not go away or worsen to the point that surgical intervention may be necessary.

When to consider surgery

A physician might advise annual tear surgery if a patient’s symptoms have not improved after several months of nonsurgical treatment, or if the pain is making it too difficult to participate in ordinary daily activities.

Patients typically have several options when it comes to annular tear surgery, with traditional and minimally invasive procedures each having their own risks and benefits. At Laser Spine Institute, we perform minimally invasive annular tear surgeries that are often the clinically appropriate first choice for surgery, with no lengthy recovery.^

To learn more about the procedures that we offer to patients whose annular tears have not healed after several months of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can help you determine if you’re a good candidate for minimally invasive outpatient surgery at one of our surgical centers.