What is an Annular Tear and How Can You Find Relief?

Have you been told you have an annular tear on one of your spinal discs and it's causing you back pain? 

In this article, we'll explore what an annular tear is, how long it takes to heal, and what are some of the best treatment options.

Most commonly these tears can occur in the lumbar spine at L4-L5 and L5-S1, which is part of your low back or lumbar spine.

Annular Tear Causes

Annular tears happen to your spinal disc. The discs of your spine are located between the bones of vertebrae; like a sandwich. The discs are designed to act as small shock absorbers and disperse the impact or load of gravity as you move your body throughout the day. 

Every single segment of your spine moves a little bit in each directly- forward (flexion), backward (extension) and side to side (lateral bending and rotation). The cumulative result of each segment moving a little bit is our full range of motion! 

 But as we age and encounter injuries, sometimes small micro tears can happen on the outside of your spinal discs. Those outside rings of your spinal discs are called the annular fibrosis, and that's why a tear in that portion is called an annular tear. 

When annular tear happens, it does not mean that all the fluid inside your disc immediately gets push out. The inside portion of the disc, called the nucleus pulposus is more like crab meat and less like water. 

Your discs are pretty tough but when a tear occurs it often results in immobilizing, debilitating pain. Many patients that I've spoken with just feel their back lock up when the tear happens, and they're unable to move. That can be really scary. But usually, after a few days, you can slowly get back to their normal patterns of life.

Annular Tear Treatment

Controlled careful motion actually helps heal your discs after a micro-tear happens. Medications or injections for torn discs can sometimes take away the pain, but they don't really promote actual healing. That's why conservative measures like chiropractic care, light exercise, and sometimes even light traction can be a great way to keep your spine mobile and improve your healing.