An annular tear develops when the annulus fibrosus (the external capsule of an inter-vertebral disc) gets ripped and results in swelling and inflammation. The annulus fibrosus’ outer layer, near the vertebral endplates, is packed with nerve fibers which are exceedingly susceptible to pain. These nerves respond strongly when they come in contact with the nucleus pulposus, causing excruciating pain and discomfort.
The inter-vertebral discs are cushions that are present in-between each vertebra of the spine. They function like shock absorbers and help the spine twist and bend in different directions. Each comprises of an annulus fibrosus and the nucleus polposus, which contains a gel like material.
What Causes An Annular Tear?
By and large, an annular tear occurs as a result of the natural process of ageing. The neck and the lower back bear most of an individual’s body weight, and consequently, the vertebrae are vulnerable to a great deal of wear and tear in due course. By 30 years, most people’s inter-vertebral discs have started degenerating to some extent. This deterioration triggers annular tears, given that, the annulus fibrosus is in a weak state.
Trauma / injury is another cause for the occurrence of an annular tear. Those who take part in high impact sports such as football and gymnastics are highly susceptible.
Annular Tear Symptoms
Clinical features associated with an annulus tear include:
- Severe, debilitating pain. When the tear extends from the center of the disc to the outer layer, the nucleus pulposus may extrude out. This condition is known as a herniated disc and is exceedingly painful.
- Tingling, numbness.
- Weakness in the arms and / or legs.
- Also, frequently, some patients may be totally asymptomatic. This can leave the patient oblivious of his spinal condition.
How To Heal An Annular Tear Naturally?
Prompt diagnosis is very crucial for effective treatment. Your health care provider will examine you thoroughly and order a few tests. The best test to diagnose an annular tear is a CT scan. Annular tears are classified depending up on the intensity and extent, ranging from 0 for a normal disc to 6 for the nastiest tear.
- Minimal tears are known to heal by themselves. Scar tissue forms in the outer layers of the annulus, forming a cap through which the nucleus pulposus cannot leak out.
- Take ample rest for a couple of days; do not exert or strain. Once the swelling and inflammation subside, you may start a little bit of movement.
- Physiotherapy exercises are definitely recommended. A physical therapist will provide you with an assortment of treatment options, and will also customize the treatment for your specific requirements. The therapist will advise exercises, electrical stimulation, hydrotherapy, ultrasound and spinal realignment.
- You will also be given certain exercises to do at home; all this will gradually lead to a recommencement of normal activities.
- Massage has also proved to be beneficial; but, ensure that you visit a licensed and qualified massage therapist.
- Herbal teas provide respite too. Sip on ginger tea, mint tea or basil tea, 4 to 5 times during the day. These allay pain and inflammation significantly.
- Surgery is hardly ever required, it may be necessary in case of extrusion of the nucleus pulposus.
- Cold compresses provide a lot of relief from the pain and swelling. Apply an ice bag, several times a day for the first 2 days; thereafter, use hot compresses.