Annular tear risk factors

An annular tear is a sometimes painful condition that occurs when a disc in the spine tears under the pressure of the surrounding vertebrae.

The pressure on the vertebrae that causes a disc to tear is often caused by certain lifestyle choices, such as weight gain and repetitive motions, as well as unavoidable factors like the natural aging process of the spine. Understanding these factors can help you make lifestyle choices that will increase your overall spine health and decrease your risk for developing an annular tear or other degenerative spine conditions. Sometimes small changes in your everyday activities can make a great positive impact on your spine health.

What are the causes of an annular tear?

Common causes of annular tears include:

  • Age — The most common cause of an annular tear is age. The spine suffers years of wear and tear, and the discs in the spine can gradually deteriorate as a result. Over time, the discs in the spine may lose elasticity, causing the tough outer layer of the disc to tear when the spine is under pressure, instead of stretch like a younger disc might.
  • Strenuous activities — Participation in high-impact sports (e.g., football and rugby) can cause the tough, elastic outer layer of the disc to become injured. Either acute or continued impact can lead to an annular tear. Occupations that require heavy lifting or constant bending can also lead to disc injury or annular tear.
  • Weight — Since the majority of a person’s weight is supported by the back, increased weight causes stress upon the discs. Carrying excess body weight forces pressure on the vertebrae and discs in the back, possibly causing the discs to expand and tear under the pressure.

Are any causes of an annular tear avoidable?

While some risks of developing an annular tear are unavoidable, such as age, other factors can be addressed to lower your risk of developing this and other degenerative spine conditions. If you are concerned about developing this condition, talk to your physician about lifestyle changes you can make to improve your overall spine health.

If you have already developed this condition, contact the spine care specialists at Laser Spine Institute to talk about the treatment options available to you. You may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive spine surgeries to treat your annular tear. Many damaged discs can be treated with our minimally invasive decompression surgery by removing the portion of the damaged disc that is pressing against the nerve root. However, if the disc is severely torn, it may need to be removed altogether and replaced with an artificial disc using our minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Let us guide you through your options so you can make an informed and confident decision about your spine care needs.