What is annular tear treatment?

Annular tear treatment is designed to manage painful symptoms that can occur when the outer wall of a spinal disc (annulus fibrosus) breaks open. This rigid barrier contains the disc’s gel-like inner core (nucleus pulposus), which helps the disc to maintain its shape so that it can effectively cushion the surrounding vertebrae and absorb the shock of movement.

While this condition might sound very serious, it is actually quite common — often resulting from repetitive motion or age-related degeneration — and doesn’t necessarily cause symptoms or require treatment. However, an injury to a disc’s highly fibrous outer tissue can sometimes be painful. Additionally, a breach in a disc’s annulus fibrosus can potentially allow some of its nucleus pulposus to leak out and invade the spinal canal, where it can create painful pressure on the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root (a condition known as a ruptured or herniated disc).

A common treatment approach

When treatment is necessary for an annular tear, it typically begins with:

  • A brief period of rest (no more than two to three days)
  • A customized physical therapy program
  • Targeted, low-impact exercises
  • Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers

Over the course of several weeks, many people are able to find the relief they need with one or more of these nonsurgical treatments. Usually, an annular tear will heal on its own as the body produces scar tissue to fill in the gap in the disc wall. However, if the pain keeps getting worse, a spine specialist may recommend more advanced annular tear treatment, such as an epidural steroid injection or a surgical procedure.

Annular tear surgery

Although surgery is generally viewed as a last resort treatment for an annular tear, the board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute perform several minimally invasive spine procedures designed to address this condition when necessary.

If you’re currently reviewing your surgical options, you can contact us for a no-cost MRI review* to learn more and find out if you’re a candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient procedures.