Annular tears occur when the tough outer covering of the vertebras, known as the annulus fibrosus, gets damaged. This covering protects the inter-vertebral discs which act as cushions between the vertebras and support the spinal column as well. Extreme stress or strain on the inter-vertebral disc due to repetitive action, such as standing and sitting, etc or a trauma and injury can cause the annular tear.
This condition results in excessive pain in the back which can become disabling and affect the quality of life of the patient as well.
Certain mild annular tears are known to heal naturally with the passage of a short time period with pain medications and rest, etc. However, the more severe cases of annular tears require surgical treatment.
There are different layers which make an annular fibrosus. The type of tear is classified according to the particular payer which gets damaged (torn) as well as the nature of the tear.
The most prominent causes for annular tears in the natural aging process which results in the neck and the back bearing most of the body's weight. This results in degeneration of the inter-vertebral disc by the age of 30 years. This also results in the weakening of the annulus fibrosus which makes it more prone to get damaged.
Other causes are traumatic injuries such as those seen in high-impact sports activities. Jobs requiring repetitive motions such as heavy lifting and bending may also result in annulus tears.
As the outer layer of the annulus is covered with nerve roots, damage to these can result in severe pain. Radial tear causes the inner soft portion of the disc to leak out of the nucleus of the disc and cause hernia (bulging) of the inter-vertebral disc.
Some patients may not experience any signs at all however, the most commonly seen signs and symptoms of annular tear are:
Annular tears are initially detected with a complete physical examination by the doctor.
Other additional diagnostic tests include:
These additional diagnostic tests are imaging test and help the doctor to create a detailed image of the vertebras and see for the exact location, extent and type of tear in the damaged annulus.
In case the annular tear is mild in form it usually heals on its own. Home-treatment methods such as resting, ice packs and pain medications help improve the condition remarkable in case of mild annular tears. The main aim of these treatment methods is to provide relief from the pain as well as prevent disc hernia.
However, if these treatment methods fail to address the problem then the patient might require surgical treatment.
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