Lumbar annular tear

A lumbar annular tear, which occurs most commonly at L4-L5 or L5-S1, is one of the most common degenerative spine conditions, affecting about 90 percent of adults at some point in their lives.

Because the lumbar spine (lower back) is responsible for supporting the majority of the body’s weight and movements, the discs in the lower back are more susceptible to being damaged over time. The most common form of this damage is an annular tear, which is a small rip or tear in the tough outer layer of the disc.

Many people don’t realize they have an annular tear in their lower back. This is because a small tear in the disc may not impact a nearby nerve, which is what triggers the pain and symptoms you hear about with spine conditions. The body often recognizes that a disc is torn and will begin the natural resorption process to heal it without you ever noticing. However, if you do feel pain and symptoms, it’s important to identify what could be annular tear symptoms so you can begin to treat the condition.

Symptoms of a lumbar annular tear

While many people do not experience symptoms for an annular tear, sometimes the torn disc material will touch a local nerve and cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Pain

These symptoms could stay locally in the lower back or they could expand along the nerve pathway into the buttocks, legs and feet, depending on the severity of the pinched nerve.

Treatment for a lumbar annular tear

Annular tears typically heal on their own through the body’s resorption process. However, this process can take several months, which means you may experience the symptoms for several months while the body heals. Your physician can recommend several nonsurgical treatments to help alleviate your symptoms while your body heals. Conservative treatment options include hot/cold therapy, exercise, physical therapy, massage and more.

If you are not able to find relief from your pain and other symptoms after months of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open back surgery. While many of our patients will be recommended a minimally invasive decompression surgery to treat an annular tear, some patients with a severely torn disc may be recommended to undergo a minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Because of our minimally invasive approach to spine surgery, our patients experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of infection than patients who choose traditional open back surgery.

For more information about a lumbar annular tear and the treatment options available, contact our spine care specialists at Laser Spine Institute today.