Annular Tear Relief

Annular tears occur when the outer casing of a vertebral disc rips.


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What Is Annular Tear?



An annular tear is a condition in which the outer layer of one of the interior discs that cushion vertebrae in the spine develops a tear. A tear in the disc weakens it, increasing the likelihood that the disc could deteriorate further and impinge on a spinal nerve. Annular tears are also called by a variety of other names, including “annular,” “radial,” “concentric,” and “transverse” tears.

Annular Tear Basics

Symptoms. Pain, numbness, fatigue, spasms, compromised movement

Causes. Wear-and-tear, injury

Treatments. Decompression, stablization/fusion, injection

Recovery Rate. High

How is Annular Tear Treated?

Annular Tear treatment depends on you – your specific physiology and how advanced your case is. The North American Spine medical team and your physician will thoroughly evaluate your situation and recommend a treatment plan to provide both maximum relief and minimum recovery time. Treatment plants are grouped into three categories:


Fusion or Stabilization


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Symptoms of Annular Tear

The symptoms of an annular tear depend on two basic factors: the location or type of the damaged nerve and the amount of pressure placed on that nerve. Common symptoms include:


Common symptoms of Annular Tear include:

  • In the lumbar spine: pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the back, buttocks, legs, and feet. If impingement affects one of the roots of your sciatic nerve, you can develop sciatica, which is characterized by localized or radiating pain, numbness, or other uncomfortable sensations in the lower body
  • In the cervical spine: pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the neck, arms, hands, and sometimes in the head
  • In the thoracic spine (less common): pain, tingling, or numbness radiating through the stomach or chest, which patients often confuse for cardiovascular problems


Prior to having a surgical procedure to treat your annular tear, conservative measures such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and steroid injections should be attempted. If these measures do not meaningfully relieve your pain, a North American Spine procedure may be in order.

Causes of Annular Tear

Annular tears occur when pressure on a spinal disc damages or breaks down the once healthy disc, causing it to compress or change its normal shape. Potential causes of this pressure include:


Additional common Annular Tear causes include:

  • Age-related wear and tear, which can lead to Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Back or neck strain due to repetitive physical activity, poor posture, imbalances in the musculature, or heavy lifting
  • Direct physical injuries such as a car accident or fall
  • Genetics, whether or not the symptoms appeared in your parents

In some cases, damage only affects the inner layers of the disc’s outer covering and leaves the inside of the disc intact—this describes a bulging disc. In other cases, the outside of the disc tears and the discs inside protrude outward. This is called a disc protrusion or herniated disc.


Sciatica treatments depend on the severity of the condition. In many cases, conservative treatments such as ice packs and anti-inflammatory medication may dull the pain. More advanced cases may require physical therapy or chiropractic treatment. For chronic cases that have not responded to conservative measures, discover how we can help.

Treatments and Procedures for Annular Tear

Treatment and procedure options for Annular Tear range from conservative options like injections to more intensive procedures like spinal fusions.


Conservative Options


Conservative treatment options include nerve root blocks and steroid injections. These are designed to provide temporary relief (up to one year), and you may elect to have the procedure done multiple times. Other conservative strategies may include the placement of a spinal cord stimulator–or STIM–which is designed not to correct the underlying degeneration, but to lessen the pain the condition causes.




Decompression–including North American Spine’s unique IntelliSpine™ procedure–may be used for cases in which the structural integrity of the vertebrae or spinal cord is not threatened. These procedures concentrate on freeing entrapped nerves, typically be enlarging the space through which nerves pass. Depending on the demands of the procedure and your unique physiology, a special surgical laser may be used.




Fusion, also called stabilization, procedures may be used when the stability of the spine or vertebrae are compromised or threatened. In some of these cases, more than one harmful condition may exist. While these procedures are minimally invasive and enjoy a high success rate, some patients may be required to stay overnight for observation.