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What is Annular Tear?

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

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.

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.

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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 injury 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 disc’s inside protrudes outward. This is called a disc protrusion or herniated disc.

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Annular Tear Testimonial

Jerry P

Condition: Annular Tear

Procedure: IntelliSpineSM (Lumbar)

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

“I am now able to go back to the gym 5 days a week”

“Prior to the surgery, I was plagued with constant lower back pain and was subject to random flare-ups… Immediately after the surgery, I experienced some pain, but it was a different type of pain from the surgery itself. I was given a prescription for pain medicine that I filled after the surgery, but I never needed to take it. In fact, my wife and went to dinner that night after the surgery. As each day passed, the surgery pain got less and after about 14 days, I was totally pain free.”

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Some of our former patients have been kind enough to offer to speak with back and neck pain sufferers who are looking into treatment options. We encourage you to take them up on it! After we determine a treatment plan, we’ll connect you with a past patient who had a similar condition and procedure.

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