Annular Tears

The exterior of the spinal disc is very strong, but it can rip or tear if too much stress is exerted. This is described as an annular tear.

diagram of a leaky disc

Problems Associated with Annular Tears

Annular tears are the root of spine pain. The first complaint is low back pain. As disc tears progressively worsen, they leak and lead to disc herniations, bulges, degeneration and desiccation.  

Risk factors

Factors associated with annular tears include: 

  • Lifting while bending forward and twisting
  • Golf, weight lifting, football, cross-fit training and other athletic activities
  • Car accidents, slip-and-falls

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Symptoms

Although low back pain is associated with annular tears, the tears often leak, causing hip and leg pain or numbness (or neck and arm pain and numbness). Formally, these symptoms are called radiculopathy.

Treatment for Annular Tears - Why the Discseel® Procedure is Best

Diagnosis

Low back pain is most often caused by the disc. Research reveals that it's not just one or two discs, but more often three or more discs and an MRI can't identify the source of pain. Annulograms are necessary to confirm disc annular tears, and that's why MRIs can't diagnose the source of symptoms. Other, less frequent causes of pain include: two small facet joints at each level (also called zygapophsial joints); or the sacro-iliac joints, or muscles and ligaments.

We stopped using discograms years ago, because they're too primative, too painful and not good enough to identify the pain-causing annular tears we want to repair. Discograms are painful because they inject contrast into discs to pressurize discs.

Annulograms are relatively painless, because they inject a very small amount of contrast into each disc's outer annulus, identifying disc tears and where the tears leak. (Some consider disc annulograms analagous to coronary arteriograms, in that they both demonstrate how contrast flows. For example, the annulogram demonstrates how contrast flows through disc tears, and in comparison, coronary arteriograms demonstrates how contrast flows through a heart's coronary arteries).

Treatment Options

Annular tears have low, but real potential, to heal on their own, but requires a significant amount of downtime (1.5-2 years on average). It's a slow healing process, if they do heal at all, because there's limited to no blood supply to discs. Instead discs get nourishment and rid themselves of waste products through the process of osmosis through the disc's endplates from above and below.

Conservative options are often prescribed, yet none has been shown to heal torn discs: 

  • Anti-inflammatory medications; decrease inflammation caused by leaky discs, but may hurt the kidneys and stomach
  • Pain medications; opioids have the potential for developing dependency, and lose their affect over time
  • Steroid Injections; the FDA warned against using epidural steroid injections to treat low back pain in 2018
  • Physical therapy programs; these can teach proper body mechanics, but have no ability to regrow discs 
  • Low impact exercise; do them without bending forward or twisting: they help disc osmosis nourishment by gentle "up-down" forces
  • Discseel® Procedure; uses purified natural Fibrin, approved by the FDA for many other indications to seal and regenerate tissue. Fibrin is injected into disc tears, typically taking less than an hour, and you're walking the same day. The disc continues healing over 3-12 months as you increase your activity. In comparison, no surgery can heal discs, and none can truly be minimally invasive. 

 

 

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