Annulus fibrosus definition

Annulus fibrosus is the tough, elastic outer wall of a disc in the spine. This outer layer holds the inner disc fluid (nucleus pulposus) in place and allows the disc to cushion the vertebrae. Because the elasticity in the annulus fibrosis allows the disc to maintain its shape as the spine bends and twists, it is also prone to wearing down and tearing over time.

Can a torn annulus fibrosus heal?

One of the most common conditions involving the tear of the annulus fibrosus is a herniated disc. A herniated disc can cause the inner disc fluid to leak into the spinal canal and place pressure on nearby spinal nerves. This pressure can lead to symptoms of numbness, tingling, pain and weakness to radiate from the back and through the extremities.

However, through a process called resorption (the absorption into the circulation of cells or tissue), it is possible for herniated discs to heal themselves over a period of weeks or months. When nucleus pulposus leaks into the spinal canal, your body recognizes it as a foreign material and tries to break down the extruded fluid, just as it would try to fight an illness. The immune system uses macrophages to break down the disc material until the body can absorb it.

Treatment options

Sometimes herniated discs cannot heal themselves. Conservative treatments will help the majority of patients who have a symptomatic herniated disc. Your physician might suggest pain medication, behavior modification, hot-cold therapy, massage or low-impact exercises. More targeted methods of pain management are available, such as nerve block injections, acupuncture and ultrasound therapy, among others.

If weeks or months of nonoperative treatments prove ineffective, your physician may suggest that you consider surgery. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute. We specialize in minimally invasive procedures that effectively target the source of your neck and back pain and also provide many advantages over traditional open neck and back surgery.

For more information about our minimally invasive procedures and how you may be a candidate, contact us today.