Back Pain

What is an Annular Disc Tear?

The spinal vertebral column is held in its place by the spinal discs. These spinal discs are responsible for the spinal flexibility. An

annular disc tear

would mean that the wall of the outer disc possesses a hole or tear. The presence of a hole can lead to problems like ruptured discs and herniated discs.

Annular Disc Tear:

The outer wall of the spinal disc is known as the

annulus fibrosus


. The

nucleus pulposus


is contained within the

annulus fibrosus


and any hole in this region could cause the nucleus to spill out. Usually, these holes are too small for the nucleus to fall out of place.

  • Most often these tears to the annular do not cause any pain due to the presence of no nerve endings or existence of any trauma.
  • But, in case these tears are to occur where the disc attaches to the vertebrae (either above or below), the pain can be immense and this pain is called

    discogenic pain


Causes of the Tear:

Let us look at the causes that can create a hole in the annular disc and make the nucleus spill.

  • Excessive trauma on the spinal disc. This usually happens in sports related injuries or car injuries where the damage can cause trauma on a small but specific region. Trauma can either crack the disc or herniate it. In severe cases, a disc rupture along with nucleus spillage can be spontaneous.
  • Spinal degeneration. In the process of aging, the spine would eventually weaken and it can lead to the development of small holes on the wall of the outer disc. The holes would gradually widen causing the nucleus to displace from its original location. Holes caused by spinal degeneration are usually asymptomatic.

The Tear of the Annular Disc Could Be Helpful:

These kind of disc tears are usually asymptomatic and not a serious health issue. But, the gravity of the situation can be exhausting and the

nocebo effect


would lead to symptoms rather than the presence being felt.

  • Apart from being mostly asymptomatic, these disc tears can actually lessen the pain caused by bulging discs. Bulged discs place a lot of pressure on the adjacent nerves that can cause severe pain.
  • When the nucleus spills out due to a tear, the width of the bulge would be reduced thus relieving the pressure on the spinal nerve.
  • Later, any such

    annular disc tear

    would decalcify, there by stabilising the vertebrae and eliminating any existing minor pain issues.

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