Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: May 24, 2018
Spinal disc tears, also known as annular tears, occur when the tough exterior of a spinal disc (the annulus fibrosus) rips or tears. These discs act as a cushion between the vertebrae while providing support to the spine, but if too much stress is exerted, a tear can occur. These discs can rupture in different ways, so treatment can vary from patient to patient. Below, we take a look at three types of disc tears and how the problem is treated.
Different Types of Annular Tears
Your spinal disc walls are made up of several layers, each of which can rupture or tear. Here are three ways in which your discs can tear.
- Peripheral Tears – This type of tear occurs on the outer fibers of the tough outer layer of the disc. It usually occurs as a result of trauma or acute force, and left untreated can lead to degeneration of a disc in the spine.
- Radial Tears – These tears begin at the center of the disc and extend all the way through the outer layer of the disc wall. Full radial tears can lead to disc herniation, where the gel-like center of the disc pushes through the tear and outside the disc. Natural aging usually contributes to the weakening of the spinal disc, which then tears due to overstress or physical trauma.
- Concentric Tears – These unique tears occur between the outer layers circumferentially. The tear is contained inside the disc, and they usually are caused by acute force or related spinal injury.
Treating Spinal Disc Tears
As we mentioned above, how to best treat spinal disc tears is assessed on an individual basis. Some patients with minor tears may be able to treat the condition with conservative care options like rest, pain medications, posture care adjustments, targeted physical therapy or spinal injections. Most spine specialists also recommend low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling and yoga, as well as to incorporate more walking in your life. These actions help to strengthen spinal structures and spur healthy blood flow in your spine, which can help ignite the healing process.
If conservative care options don’t work, or you’ve suffered a setback in your recovery, surgery may be the best option. Surgeons can strengthen and fix the disc tear, as well as address any bulging or herniated disc. These operations can typically be performed using minimally invasive techniques, which are less taxing on the patient, reduce complication likelihood and speed up recovery time.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a spinal disc tear or you just want to get to the bottom of your spine pain, consider setting up an appointment with Dr. Sinicropi today.