An annular disc tear can cause unbearable pain and discomfort, calling for urgent pain management services. Left untreated, the rip can cause the affected spinal disc to bulge and later herniate. The condition occurs when the annulus fibrosus (outer layer of spinal disc muscles) suffers tearing and damage. Cracks in the annulus fibrosus cause the jell-like content inside the disc to ooze out, leaving the disc-less elastic and vulnerable to bulging and herniation.
5 Annular Disc Tear Treatments
Annular disc tear can occur due to trauma/injury, overuse, degenerative disc disorders, bone spurs, genetics, and more. Your doctor will diagnose the condition, determine the root cause and extent of damage, and recommend treatment.
The treatment depends on the type of annular disc tear (traverse, radial, or concentric). Here’s an overview of the five popular treatment options for annular disc tears:
1. Pain Management
Annular tears can heal on their own if given enough rest and recovery. If the cracks are minor and able to recover without intervention, you only need to remedy the pain. Most cases of annular disc tear result in pain and discomfort in the back and neck region. If the root nerves in the spine are affected, the peripheral nerves branching from the root may also be impacted. You may experience pain in other areas as a result.
All cases of annular disc tear require pain management services, regardless of the cause. Your doctor will assess the condition and pain threshold to determine the best remedy. Treatment often involves pain medication like ibuprofen. The doctor may also recommend steroid injections to relieve inflammation. Some cases may be remedied using over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, while others require prescription-strength medicines.
2. Physical Therapy
Exercise is another popular remedy featured in annular disc tear treatment. Torn discs can heal with time but need physical therapy to ensure proper recovery and the full range of movement. Your physical therapist will devise a routine involving stretches and weight-bearing maneuvers to maintain flexibility during recovery. Physical therapy also enhances strength and increases circulation, which is vital in regaining maximum functionality.
Spine-specialized physical therapy is part of nearly all annular disc tear treatments. Your doctor may recommend various therapies, including manual physical therapy, aquatic therapy, massage therapy, dry needling, and personal training. Spine-specialized physical therapy will also relieve the pain, enhance joint nutrition, and improve mobility. The doctor will determine the right physical therapy after a thorough clinical evaluation and diagnosis.
Most cases of annular disc tears will heal within a few months of conservative therapy and pain-relieving medications. The doctor will perform regular scans to assess the healing progress. If the torn disc doesn’t heal after six months, the doctor may recommend minimally invasive spine surgery. Microdiscectomy is often performed for herniated discs and involves surgically removing the damaged portions of the disc. A qualified surgeon performs the procedure.
During microdiscectomy, the surgeon will remove the portions of the disc, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. The procedure also clears fragments of the disc material oozed out of the cracked annulus fibrosus. Microdiscectomy involves small instruments to make tiny incisions and a special microscope to view the nerves and disc. The spinal surgery is highly successful in treating mild to moderate annular disc tear, and the pain will subside within one to two weeks.
4. Artificial Disc Replacement
Annular disc tears caused by traumatic blows can leave the disc too unstable for microdiscectomy, especially if the crack is too large. In such cases, the surgeon will suggest artificial disc replacement (ADR). The surgery involves removing and replacing the damaged disc with a metal or plastic prosthesis. Artificial discs can last for several years without revision or replacement and do an excellent job of stabilizing the vertebra.
ADR also effectively relieves pain and inflammation and is the standard of care for remedying discogenic pain. The procedure is recommended for annular disc tears caused by degenerative disc disorders and is more effective than spinal fusion. Once the damaged disc is removed and replaced, you can resume regular activity and movements within a few weeks. Your surgeon will offer advice on what to do and avoid during the recovery period.
5. Spinal Fusion Surgery
Orthodontic surgeons may recommend spinal fusion surgery in rare cases of severe annular disc tear. Unlike ADR, which replaces the damaged disc with an artificial model, spinal fusion does involve a prosthesis. The surgeon simply removes the damaged disc and fuses the two vertebrae. Spinal fusion eliminates motion between the two spinal bones, formerly cushioned by the damaged disk. The vertebrae will now move as one, eliminating the need for cushioning.
Spinal fusion also remedies the pain and inflammation. The procedure is considered major surgery and can last several hours. Your surgeon will make a cut in your back, belly, or both to remove the damaged disc and fuse the two vertebrae with special screws. Most people who undergo spinal fusion can return to work. In recent years, ADR has replaced spinal fusion as the most effective treatment for severe disc tears and damages that require surgery.
Pain Management Services
Treating annular disc tears involves pain management services, including medication and physical therapy. Severe cases may require minimally invasive surgeries like microdiscectomy or major surgeries like ADR and spinal fusion. Make sure you consult with reputable facilities like that can guarantee comprehensive diagnosis and treatment.