Diagnosing Annular Tears

The discs in your spine support your spine and act as the body’s shock absorbers. Annular tears, also known as annular fissures, may happen when there is excess stress on the disc. Since the symptoms of an annular tear may resemble other back problems, it is crucial that you visit a practiced doctor for diagnosing annular tears. They can work with you to determine the cause of your back pain and the subsequent treatment.

Understanding Annular Tears

An annular tear occurs when the hard exterior of a disc, known as the annulus fibrosis, rips. The type of tear may vary according to where it occurs. Radial tears start at the disc’s center and extend through the tough outer shell. These are the tears most likely to eventually lead to a herniated disc, in which the gel-like interior of the disc seeps through.

Peripheral tears are usually caused by trauma and take place in the outer shell’s fibers. These tears often lead to further disc deterioration. Concentric tears occur circumferentially between the disc’s outer layers, also speeding up disc deterioration. Contact a doctor for assistance with diagnosing annular tears.

How Tears Happen

Although trauma can result in an annular tear, more often the condition occurs due to wear and tear on the body. Over time, discs degenerate. Some people are genetically predisposed to suffering from annular tears, while common actions may cause the problem in others.

For example, people with scoliosis are more prone to annular tears, as are those carrying excess weight. Sudden twists and turns, lifting heavy objects, repetitive motions, and a sedentary lifestyle – especially sitting for long periods – can all lead to annular tears.

Once a person experiences an annular tear, they are more likely to suffer from other related disc and spinal conditions, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Misaligned discs
  • Facet joint syndrome
  • Nerve pinching
  • Spinal inflammation

Common Symptoms of this Condition

Annular tear symptoms vary upon the location of the tear. Besides pain, patients may experience numbness, tingling, and weakness. If the tear occurs in the lumbar region, or lower area of the back, the back and leg may hurt. Generally, the pain worsens when the patient sits rather than stands and anything that pressures the disc – including sneezing or bending forward – increases pain levels.

In a worst-case scenario, people suffering from an annular tear may experience loss of bowel or bladder control or sexual dysfunction. Paralysis may even occur. These symptoms are medical emergencies that require a trip to the nearest hospital’s emergency room.

Annular Tear Diagnosis and Treatment

The doctor conducts a thorough physical examination and takes a complete medical history. Diagnostic testing may include an MRI or CT scan to view the intervertebral disc, or a discography, which allows the physician to determine whether it is indeed the disc that is causing pain.

Most people will recover from an annular tear with conservative treatment methods. These include taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief, physical therapy, and possibly traction. In some cases, doctors will prescribe stronger short-term pain medication or inject corticosteroids into the affected area for longer-term pain relief. Some patients may require minimally invasive surgery to repair the tear.

Learn More About Diagnosing Annular Tears from an Experienced Doctor

If you are experiencing the symptoms of an annular tear, call today and arrange an appointment. It is important not to wait as these symptoms can worsen over time. A doctor can perform necessary tests for diagnosing annular tears to determine whether this is the cause of your pain. They can then craft a treatment plan for your specific circumstances.