Annular Tear: The Causes, Symptoms & Recovery
If you've ever experienced back pain, you're not alone. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. While there are many different causes of back pain, one of the most common is an annular tear. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help relieve the pain caused by an annular tear. In this blog, we discuss what an annular tear is and how to relieve the pain.
What is an Annular Tear?
An annular tear is known as a rupture in the ligament securing your vertebra to your disc. This ligament encircles the nucleus of your disc with a robust ring of cartilage fibres called the annulus fibrosus.
The annulus fibrosus is the outer layer of the intervertebral disc. It is a tough, fibrous tissue that is made up of several layers of collagenous tissue. The annulus fibrosus is attached to the vertebral bodies by the vertebral endplates. The main function of the annulus fibrosus is to act as a shock absorber for the spine. However, the annulus fibrosus can become damaged, and this can lead to a tear in the tissue.
An annular ligament is a ring-shaped ligament that encircles the head of a bone at a joint. The annular ligament keeps the head of the bone in place and prevents it from dislocating.
What Causes an Annular Tear?
The lower back or lumbar spine is where annular tears typically occur. Most of the time, rips begin inside the nucleus and spread outward rather than inward. Anterior annular rips may not be painful if they are small or just starting. However, the gel-like material inside the disc may leak if the rupture worsens over time. While it might not seem like it could cause much harm, the fluid hitting the spinal nerves can be painful. The annulus can tear if the spine is damaged. The most common cause of annular tear is degenerative disc disease. This is a condition that occurs when the discs in the spine begin to break down. The annulus can also tear if the spine is injured. A fall, car accident, or other type of trauma can cause an annular tear.
What are the Symptoms of an Annular Tear?
The most common symptom of an annular tear is pain in the lower back or neck. The pain is often worse with movement and may be accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs. In some cases, an annular tear can cause the disc to bulge or herniate, which can lead to additional symptoms such as nerve pain or paralysis.
Annular Tear Treatment
There are a few different ways that annular tear treatment can be approached. The first is through conservative treatment, which may include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and epidural steroid injections. If these methods are unsuccessful, then surgery may be necessary. This can be done through a lumbar disc decompression, which involves removing a small portion of the disc to relieve pressure on the nerves, or a lumbar disc fusion, which joins two or more vertebrae together. The decision on which surgery to perform depends on the location and severity of the tear, as well as the overall health of the patient.
Take Care of Your Back with Your Chiropractor
Ultimately, the best course of treatment for annular tears will be determined on a case-by-case basis by a qualified healthcare professional such as a chiropractor. A chiropractor can help relieve pain from an annular tear by manipulating the affected area and realigning the spine. This can help to take pressure off of the nerves and allow the muscles to heal. Chiropractic care can also help to improve range of motion and increase blood flow to the area, which can speed up the healing process.
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- Cleveland Clinic (2022). ‘Back Pain’. Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22325-back-pain> [Accessed 24 November 2022].
- Comprehensive Spine Institute (2022). ‘Annular Tear’. Available at: <https://www.csiortho.com/spine-conditions/annular-tear/#:~:text=An%20annular%20tear%20is%20a,shock%20absorber%20for%20your%20body.> [Accessed 24 November 2022].
- Dr. Tony Mork (2020). ‘Everything You Need to Know About An Annular Tear’. Available at: <https://drtonymork.com/back-pain/annular-tear/annular-tears/> [Accessed 24 November].
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