Most people experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. However, you may be surprised to learn that many adults don’t realize when they have an annular tear. This is because they take back pain as part of getting older and assume it’s nothing serious. However, lower back pains have many different causes and could mean something as serious as an annular tear. Most annular tears develop in the spine’s lumbar section, as it supports your body’s weight.
While it’s not unusual for lumbar annular tears to heal on their own, this condition could lead to immense pain and disc damage. So, what is a lumbar annular tear, and what are the symptoms and treatment options? NJ Spine & Orthopedic is here to help explain everything you need to know. Our experienced spine specialists and patient advocates can offer a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of your condition.
A lumbar annular tear is a tear or crack on the annulus fibrosus, the external ligament surrounding the disc. The lumbar spine comprises vertebral bodies with lumbar discs in between them. A disc is a specialized type of joint that provides support and mobility and acts as a shock absorber for the spine. Therefore, the thick outer layer of the disc may tear as it endures daily impact and stress.
After a lumbar annular tear, the nucleus inside the disc, often referred to as “jelly,” may start to leak out, causing a herniated disc. When this happens, it causes pressure on nearby nerves causing what’s called a pinched nerve, which can be extremely painful. While there are many causes of this condition, it mainly happens due to the natural deterioration of the spine with age. Typically, an annular tear should heal itself with time. However, it’s susceptible to future tears, making it essential for individuals to seek medical help.
Normally, lumbar annular tears are part of the natural aging process. Vertebral discs naturally degenerate and lose their durability with age. When this occurs, they lose their flexibility, making them prone to tearing. Therefore, the weakened annular fibers may start to tear, leading to a lumbar annular tear.
Additionally, the annulus fibrosus may be subjected to various conditions that can cause a lumbar annular tear. Some of the other factors that may lead to an annular tear include:
A lumbar annular tear often results from gradual wear and tear. However, anything that puts added pressure on the spine may cause this condition. You may feel immense pain, which requires the intervention of a skilled doctor.
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Lumbar annular tears can range from mild to severe. If you have a minor tear, you’ll probably not have any symptoms, and the condition should heal by itself. However, it may get worse, leading to symptoms such as:
The symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. The symptoms may also worsen if the tear progresses to damage the disc. Since the back is an integral part of our daily activities and movements, it can be quite challenging to find relief from the pain without treatment.
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An experienced spine physician can perform a physical exam to determine whether you have an annular tear. This includes an MRI scan to confirm the presence of a lumbar annular tear before deciding what treatment options may work for you. Available treatment options range from conservative therapies to surgical interventions. These options aim to relieve the pain, prevent or reduce the stress on the discs, and improve your spine health.
Depending on the severity of the tear and your symptoms, some of the common treatment options for lumbar annular tears include:
Unless in severe condition, treating lumbar annular may not require surgery. Conservative treatments may ease the symptoms. Some of the common conventional treatments for lumbar annular tears include:
These treatments help relieve pressure on adjacent nerve fibers and roots, strengthen core muscles, and generally bring relief to individuals suffering from lumbar annular tears.
Surgical intervention may be needed if your condition worsens, even after conservative treatments. Some of the common surgical procedures for lumbar annular tears include:
If your condition has not improved after months of conservative treatment, don’t hesitate to consult our experienced spine specialists.
Lumbar annular tears are a common spine degenerative condition that can develop naturally as you age. Therefore, you should not ignore the back pains and discomfort hoping they will go away. Rather, it’s crucial to speak to a spine specialist with experience treating a wide range of spine conditions. It could be a severe lumbar annular tear that requires advanced medical treatment.
At NJ Spine & Orthopedic, our spine specialists can help you get the most accurate and thorough diagnosis of your condition. We are committed to helping our patients get the best treatment for their lumbar annular tear and other spine-related conditions. Call us today at (866) 553-0612 or complete our online contact form to schedule an appointment with our team. Our Concierge Team will help you coordinate all aspects of your appointments to make sure your treatment goes as smoothly as possible.