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 ask the question, “What is an annular tear?”

An annular tear is another name for a herniated disc. It describes a spinal disc that has torn due to injury or continual pressure from the surrounding vertebrae. While the tear itself can be painful, more severe pain and other discomfort can occur if a nearby nerve root or the spinal cord is compressed by the torn disc. 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 annular tear treatment options available to you.

Annular tear treatment

An annular tear can sometimes heal through the body’s natural resorption process. This process allows the damaged disc material — any disc fragments or extruded disc nucleus — to be absorbed into the blood stream. 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:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretching
  • Weight loss, when necessary
  • Behavior modification
  • 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 physician may recommend you 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 without the lengthy recovery and excessive risks associated with traditional open spine surgery, often making our procedures the clinically appropriate first choice between the two.

To help treat an annular tear, our surgeons would likely 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. In some cases, a stabilization procedure may be required, which removes the damaged disc and replaces it with stabilizing hardware.

It’s time to take the next step toward pain relief from your annular tear. 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.