What are the symptoms of an annular tear in the neck (cervical spine)?

An annular tear is a degenerative condition that can develop in a spinal disc and cause a number of symptoms. Each disc consists of a gel-like core (nucleus pulposus) that is confined by a tough outer wall (annulus fibrosus). The discs, which cushion the vertebrae and are subjected to a significant amount of wear and tear, can gradually weaken and dry out over time. As part of this process, the outer wall of a disc can rupture, or tear.

After a tear forms in a disc’s wall, some of its inner core material can potentially escape through the breach and enter the spinal canal. There, it can cause localized inflammation and swelling. In addition, its presence may irritate or compress nearby spinal nerves.

What does a cervical annular tear feel like?

An annular tear in the neck can cause pain around the damaged disc. The pain can become chronic or intensify when the neck is bent or twisted. Additionally, if there is nerve involvement, symptoms may be felt in other areas of the body, such as the arms, hands, legs or feet. For instance, a cervical annular tear may cause:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle spasms

How to manage torn disc symptoms

Annular tear symptoms often respond well to conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, medications and epidural steroid injections. For severe pain that lingers beyond several weeks or months, there may be surgical treatment options to consider as well.

If you’re exploring surgery to address a damaged spinal disc, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive surgery has earned a patient satisfaction score of 98.^ We can provide a free MRI review* to help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures, such as a discectomy, foraminotomy or laminotomy.