Annular tear — symptoms and causes

Annular tear symptoms can develop when the tough outer layer of a disc rips, allowing the inner disc fluid to seep out and impact a nearby nerve root.

While many patients have an annular tear in the spine and never feel any symptoms, sometimes — when a nerve root is compressed — these symptoms can be crippling. If you’re experiencing chronic pain and discomfort, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms. An annular tear can have many causes, and it’s important for your doctor to discover what has caused your pain so he or she can recommend the best treatment for your condition.

Symptoms of an annular tear

Before you go to the doctor, you should monitor your symptoms for a few days and determine if things are getting better or worse. Some instances of back pain are temporary, often caused by a strained muscle, and can heal with a few days of rest. However, other cases of back pain can be steady and last longer than just a few days, sometimes even worsening over time. It’s important to monitor all symptoms so you know if you are getting better or if you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

The most common symptoms that develop with an annular tear include:

  • Weakness in the arms and/or legs
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain in the neck or back

Causes of an annular tear

The three main causes of an annular tear include:

  • Natural aging process of the spine
  • Injury
  • Trauma

Most annular tears are a result of the natural aging process. Since the neck and back are responsible for bearing most of the body’s weight, they are susceptible to a great deal of wear over time.

By the age of 30, most people begin to experience some degree of degeneration in their discs. This degeneration weakens the tough outer layer of the disc and can lead to small tears in the lining. Traumatic injury can also cause an annular tear, which is typically seen in individuals who participate in high-impact sports such as gymnastics and football, and in people with strenuous occupations.

Your physician can determine the cause of your annular tear by performing a series of physical and imaging tests. This information will help your physician either recommend conservative treatment or surgical treatment. If you are recommended spine surgery for an annular tear, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery. We are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open back surgery due to our safer, more effective approach to spine surgery.

Our minimally invasive decompression surgery helps many patients find relief from an annular tear by removing a small part of the damaged disc that is causing nerve compression. In some severe cases of disc damage, a stabilization surgery may be recommended to replace the damaged disc with an artificial one.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.