Yoga poses used as treatment for an annular tear

An annular tear is a rip in the outer wall of a spinal disc. This type of injury can be the result of a traumatic injury, but it’s most often an outcome of the natural aging process. If this is the case, then the onset of symptoms may be gradual and include localized pain and tenderness at the site of the tear. It may also include radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness along the length of any nerve compressed by inner disc material that has escaped through the tear.

Yoga is one common annular tear treatment option that has helped many patients manage pain associated with this condition. By improving flexibility and strengthening core muscles through a series of low-impact poses, yoga has the potential to reduce or eliminate symptoms by toning the muscles of the back and abdominal, allowing them to support more of the body’s weight and reduce stress on the spine and its discs.

As with any exercise routine, always consult with your physician first. You may also want to seek the guidance of a professional yoga instructor who can modify certain poses with props, such as blankets, bolsters and straps to ensure they do not aggravate your injury. Avoid poses that require you to bend past a 90-degree angle at the hips, round the spine or twist deeply. And, always back off immediately from any pose that causes discomfort.

With these precautions in mind, the following poses may reduce your symptoms and aid in the recovery process:

  • Standing poses. Side angle and triangle poses can lengthen the spine and stretch the lower back muscles, providing gentle traction that decompresses the vertebrae. Make sure to keep your torso in a straight, neutral position.
  • Passive backbends. Poses such as baby cobra or sphinx allow you to use your hands and elbows as support. These types of spinal extensions can shift a damaged disc away from the compressed nerve root, providing pain relief. After a few sessions, you can gradually work your way up to deeper backbends, such as bridge and bow poses.
  • Active backbends. The locust pose, in which the upper chest and legs lift off the mat, will strengthen the muscles around the spine, providing added stability and increasing blood flow to the damaged disc, which could speed the healing process.

If you’ve been diagnosed with an annular tear and are still experiencing pain even after engaging in several months of conservative treatment options, such as yoga and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, then you may be a candidate for one of the minimally invasive surgeries performed at Laser Spine Institute. We are the leader in outpatient spinal procedures that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^ Contact a member of our team today to learn how you can receive a free MRI review* as the first step in the screening process.