What is an annular tear?

Many of us are familiar with terms like bulging disc or herniated disc. However, if you go to the doctor and are diagnosed with an annular tear, you may have questions regarding what this condition is and what the treatment options are.

An annular tear is often related to a herniated disc. It describes a spinal disc where the outer layer, or annulus fibrosus, has torn. This is usually related to the natural aging process, although injury and other factors can play a role. While the tear itself can sometimes cause discomfort, more severe pain and other symptoms can occur if a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord is compressed by displaced disc material. While asking about what an annular tear is can be a great place to start after a diagnosis, another important question to ask is about the treatment options available to you.

Annular tear treatment

An annular tear can sometimes heal through the body’s natural resorption process. This allows the damaged disc material to be absorbed into the bloodstream. During this time, conservative treatments can be recommended to help relieve the symptoms of an annular tear while the body attempts to heal itself. Common annular tear treatments include:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretching
  • Weight loss, if necessary
  • Lifestyle changes like improving posture or quitting smoking
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Corticosteroid injections

These treatments often take several weeks or months before sufficient pain relief can be measured. If you have exhausted all conservative treatments without success, your doctor may recommend you to consult with a specialist for annular tear surgery.

Annular tear surgery

If you have been told to consider surgery as a form of annular tear treatment, you should research all surgical options available to you so you can be confident that you have found a course of treatment that will best fit your needs.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer patients minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open neck and back surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery can help treat annular tears and other common spine conditions with a shorter recovery and less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.^

To help treat an annular tear, our surgeons may perform a minimally invasive discectomy, which removes a small portion of the damaged disc that is pressing against a nerve root and causing your pain. We also provide minimally invasive stabilization procedures as an outpatient alternative to traditional open spine fusion surgery.

To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute and ask for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures.