L5-S1 annular tear

If you have been through the process of diagnosing a spine condition, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of medical jargon used to describe a small portion of the spine. While this medical jargon may seem unimportant, you should be fully informed about all aspects of your condition so you can make an informed decision about your treatment.

The term “L5-S1 annular tear” might sound like medical jargon, but it actually refers to a specific cause of lower back pain. An annular tear is a rip in the annulus fibrosus, the tough, elastic outer layer of the disc that helps it to maintain the proper space and cushion in between the vertebrae of the spine. Over time, the continual pressure of daily activities and weight gain can weaken the discs, sometimes causing the tough outer layer to form small tears and rips.

What does L5-S1 means?

The first component of the term “L5-S1 annular tear” is “L5-S1.” These letters and numbers indicate the location of the damaged disc. The L5 refers to the fifth lumbar vertebra and the S1 indicates the first sacral vertebra. The lumbar spine is the portion of the spine that extends through the lower back; the sacral spine is the portion of the spine that connects to the pelvis and forms the “tailbone.” Thus, the deteriorated disc is located between these two vertebrae in the lower back that connect the lumbar spine to the sacral spine.

Because the annular tear is located in the lower back, the symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the lower back or lower extremities
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the lower back, buttocks, legs or feet
  • Limited mobility
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control (If this happens, seek medical attention immediately.)

Treating an annular tear

An L5-S1 annular tear is a very common condition, and the symptoms of pain can often be treated successfully through a regimen of conservative, nonsurgical techniques. Some examples of effective symptom remedies include:

  • Low-impact exercises or stretching classes
  • Deep massage
  • Pain medication, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • Pain patches
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractics
  • Epidural injections

Your physician will help you find the best treatment option for your symptoms and condition. Because most conservative treatments take several months before you can accurately measure their effectiveness, it’s important to stay in contact with your physician and report any increased pain.

If conservative treatments prove to be ineffective for you, your physician may recommend surgery to treat your L5-S1 annular tear. If this is your situation, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures can help you find relief from neck and back pain without the need for traditional open spine surgery.

We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgery that can either remove a small portion of the damaged disc or entirely replace the disc with an artificial one, depending on the severity of your condition. Many moderate spine conditions can be treated with our decompression surgery, however some more seriously damaged spines may require a stabilization surgery. Because of our minimally invasive approach to the spine, our patients are able to experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complications than patients who choose traditional open back surgery.

For more information about your condition and the treatment options available to you, contact Laser Spine Institute and let us review your MRI or CT scan.