Annular tear prevention

An annular tear is another term to describe a herniated disc in the spine. While this condition can have several causes, the most common risk factor is the natural aging and deterioration of the spine over time.

With increased age, discs in the spine lose water and protein content. This weakens the disc and causes it to decrease in height and to not withstand the pressure of the surrounding vertebrae. With natural body motion and the weakening of the disc, small tears often develop in the tough outer layer of the disc. Most tears are small and asymptomatic. Occasionally a tear is large enough to break through the outer layer of the disc and allow the inner disc fluid to escape into the spinal canal. This is defined as a herniated disc or annular tear and could impact a local nerve root. Symptoms of this nerve compression can include pain, weakness, tingling and numbness in the area innervated by the impinged nerve.

Can you do anything to avoid it?

While annular tear prevention might not be achievable, that does not mean there are not steps you can take to keep your spine healthy and strong in order to reduce the risk of developing this and other degenerative spine conditions.

Because your spine is responsible for carrying the weight of the body and stabilizing the body during movement, lifestyle changes that impact your overall health often have great benefits to your spinal health. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stretch
  • Maintain a good posture
  • Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake

These recommendations are ways to maintain a strong spine and help combat the natural degeneration that takes place. However, sometimes symptoms are unavoidable and you must instead turn to treatment options.

Treating an annular tear

Many patients can manage symptoms through a program of conservative, nonsurgical therapy that aims to strengthen the muscles around the spine to help relieve pressure on the impacted nerve. Whether it is physical therapy, massage, hot/cold therapy or pain medication, your physician can prescribe the treatment that is right for you.

If you have tried conservative treatments for weeks or months with no results, it may be time to speak with your physician about a surgical option for your pain.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. For patients suffering from an annular tear, we offer a minimally invasive discectomy procedure, which removes a small piece of the damaged disc to release pressure on the compressed nerve root.

In some cases, the surgeon will have to remove the entire disc because it is too damaged to support the surrounding vertebrae. When this happens, a stabilization procedure will then insert an artificial disc into the spine to immediately provide support and structure. This type of procedure will be determined when our spine care experts review your MRI report or CT scan.

Because our surgery is performed through a small incision and avoids the surrounding muscles, our patients experience a lower risk, higher patient satisfaction score and a shorter recovery time^ than patients who choose to undergo traditional open back surgery. For more information about our minimally invasive spine surgery for an annular tear, or to have our spine care experts review your MRI report, contact Laser Spine Institute today.