An Annular Tear, also known as an annulus fissure, is a tear (or rip) of the annulus fibrosis, or outside of the disc in the spinal column. This outer ring of the disc acts as a resilient material that protects the inner disc from getting damaged and structurally supports the spinal column. Tearing of the annulus can produce pain and inflammation due to the injury of the fibers within its structure. An annular tear often leads to a disc herniation wherein the inner, gelatinous material is forced out through the tear in the annulus.
Causes of Annular Tear
Most annular tears are the result of weakening of the fibers from the natural aging process when your discs develop normal wear and tear. The process of wear and tear can cause a disc to degenerate, which is known as a degenerative disc disease. Another significant cause of annular tears is if you sustain any form of spinal trauma, such as from an impact from a motor vehicle collision, or an accident from a fall or sports-related injury.
Symptoms of Annular Tear
Symptoms commonly associated with an annular tear include:
• Pain and inflammation in neck and back
• Radiating pain to the legs or arms
• Aggravated pain from movement, including bending, lifting and sitting
• Muscle weakness
• Numbness and tingling in legs or arms (depending on the location of the tear)
Treatment Options for Annular Tear
Treatment for an Annular Tear almost always begins with the utilization of conservative care, which includes a variety of non-surgical and minimally invasive techniques like medications, physical therapy and bracing. Others non-surgical treatments may include epidural injections, pain patches, deep tissue massage, and chiropractic care. The annular tear will first be properly diagnosed via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer tomography (CT) scans, and other diagnostic studies. This way, the physician will be able to properly diagnose the condition and provide the best treatment possible to alleviate the patient’s pain and heal the damaged intervertebral disc. In the most severe of cases, when minimally invasive options are unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended.