Disc Tear

Annular Disc Tear

As you age, your body undergoes many changes, including gradual deterioration of your spine’s various structures. One of the most notable changes is an annular disc tear, which can occur in your intervertebral discs. Disc tears are part of the degenerative disc disease cascade.

They can occur naturally or because of a traumatic impact on the disc from repetitive exercises, lifting or for example an auto accident. When you experience a disc tear, this can lead to extremely painful symptoms and back pain.

If you’re looking for doctors who treat these annular disc tears in Arizona, look no further than Desert Institute for Spine Care. We are leaders in minimally invasive spine care, treating the source of your painful symptoms.

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What Is an Annular Disc Tear?

Before receiving treatment at one of our Arizona centers, the doctors at DISC first need to determine your condition. Annular tears result from degenerative changes to the intervertebral disc that weakens the disc’s outer layers called the annulus. When the disc’s annulus has weakened, it can lead to disc tears, bulging and herniated or ruptured disc.

Intervertebral discs lie between your vertebrae, supporting movement and acting as shock absorbers. Healthy discs are composed of a tough outer shell, the annulus fibrosis, and soft, gel-like material within called the nucleus pulposus. These two layers work together to distribute pressure across the disc evenly.

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What Are Disc Tears?

Disc tears occur when the outer shell cracks or tears, allowing the nucleus pulposus to seep out. One way to picture this is to imagine a jelly doughnut. If the doughnut’s exterior gets stale or dry, little cracks can form, allowing some of the jelly within to seep out through the tear.

The gel-like material within the disc can aggravate the pain receptors found in the tough, outer shell, leading to significant pain and other symptoms. Annular tears tend to be more common in the lower back and cervical or neck region, but they can also impact other spinal areas.

X-ray view of human skeleton model showing the back and spine

What Causes a Torn Vertebral Disc?

Annular disc tears occur due to many causes. The natural aging process, trauma, high-impact activities and sudden straining movements can add additional pressure and wear on the intervertebral discs.

With increased pressure, discs can lose hydration and flexibility and break down, contributing to cracks and tears. People who engage in high-impact activities or who have jobs that cause significant back strain are more at risk for disc tears.

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What Are the Symptoms of a Disc Tear?

Unfortunately, many patients do not realize that they have a disc tear until they experience the painful symptoms associated with other spinal conditions, such as a herniated disc or compressed nerve. A torn disc in the lower back will cause symptoms to the legs, while a disc tear in the neck region will cause symptoms in the hands, arms and shoulders.

Symptoms of a torn disc can include the following:

  • Pain in the affected area
  • Pain, tingling, numbness or loss of reflexes in the arms or legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain that radiates from the buttocks to the legs

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Doctor pointing out areas on a human spine model

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Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Disc Tear in Arizona

The orthopedic surgeons at DISC offer a full range of innovative treatments. When dealing with a disc tear, our doctors always recommend least invasive options first based on your unique condition. Many annular tears can improve and heal over time with non-surgical interventions, such as:

  • Exercises or physical therapy to strengthen and stabilize the affected area around the disc
  • Pain medication and anti-inflammatories
  • Ice or heat therapy to help increase blood flow to the damaged area
  • Therapeutic injections

If conservative treatment methods fail to address your pain after six to eight weeks, we may recommend minimally invasive disc tear surgery. We specialize in endoscopic spine surgery, designed to safely remove herniated disc material to ensure a fast and effective recovery. If the disc tear has developed into a severe disc herniation, we may recommend artificial disc replacement.

The team at DISC is here to walk you through the surgery process, ensuring you understand everything ahead of time so you can make a fully informed decision. We want to partner with you to provide the best possible care.

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DISC Offers the Following Surgical Options to Treat Disc Tears:

  • Endoscopic Discectomy/Annuloplasty (lumbar only)
  • Minimally Invasive Microdiscectomy
  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion – ACDF
  • Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion
  • Artificial Disc Replacement (Cervical and select Lumbar cases)
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Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Contact DISC to Learn More About Annular Tear Disc Treatment in AZ

Are you experiencing severe lumbar back pain, or are you concerned that you have a disc tear in your neck that requires immediate medical attention? Patients from around the world count on the expert surgeons at DISC to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate spinal conditions such as annular disc tears. We will develop a personalized treatment plan that works with your lifestyle so you can enjoy life again.

Contact us today to schedule your appointment with one of our board-certified spine surgeons in the Phoenix, AZ area.


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