Annular tear pain — diagnosing and treating

An annular tear in the spine can present itself in a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including pain that extends from the spine into the nearby arm or leg. It can also cause numbness, tingling or weakness in the extremity, making once-simple activities like gardening or walking difficult.

These painful symptoms should not prevent you from living the lifestyle you enjoy. An annular tear is a common condition that affects many people over the age of 50. Typically, the body heals the damaged disc before any symptoms are experienced. However, if you are feeling the pain of an annular tear, you should talk to your doctor about finding treatment options to reduce your symptoms while your body naturally heals.

Diagnosing an annular tear

Pain is usually the driving factor that causes a patient to seek treatment for a spine condition. Before your physician can recommend any treatment options, he or she must first diagnose the cause of your pain. The following tests are typically performed in order to diagnose an annular tear:

  • Physical exam — A physician will test your strength and reflexes to determine the extent of your injury. This is especially important since an annular tear in the lower back can lead to other conditions, such as sciatica, which can decrease the muscle strength in your legs or feet.
  • MRI — Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to present a detailed image of the neck and back.
  • Discography — This method is generally the most effective way to diagnose an annular tear. Dye is injected into the disc, giving the physician a clear view of any injury that may be present. Discography is not routinely used because dye injection into an already inflamed disc is quite uncomfortable.

Treatment options for an annular tear

Once your physician diagnoses an annular tear, you will most likely be recommended a series of conservative treatments to help reduce your pain. Conservative treatments do not treat the condition, but rather they reduce the symptoms of pain and discomfort while your body heals itself through the natural resorption process. Many patients can find effective relief through conservative therapy.

This process may take several months; however, if after these several months you still feel pain and symptoms, you should contact Laser Spine Institute and ask about our minimally invasive spine surgery for an annular tear.

We offer minimally invasive spine surgery that helps treat an annular tear by removing the part of the disc that is pressing against the nerve root and causing the pain; this is called our minimally invasive decompression surgery. In some cases, the entire disc needs to be removed and replaced with an artificial one to stabilize the spine; this is done through our stabilization surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery avoids the cutting and tearing of local muscles, so our patients can experience a safer, more effective surgery with a shorter recovery time§ than traditional open back surgery. In fact, our minimally invasive spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open spine surgery.

For more information about the minimally invasive spine surgery that can treat an annular tear, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.