Every day, I hear from callers who have suffered injuries at work. Some injuries are the result of a one-time accident or trauma, while some are caused by repetitive activity. Some injuries are incredibly devastating and painful to the worker, while others are manageable or more of an annoyance. Many people get injuries that they had never heard of before. Top of the list is an annular tear. An annular tear is an injury that in the beginning stages may not cause any discomfort, but if the tear gets progressively worse, fluid in the disc can hit the spinal nerves and cause a lot of pain.

What exactly is an annular tear?

The intervertebral discs, which act as cushions or shock absorbers between the vertebrae, are enclosed by a tough outer covering known as the Annulus Fibrosus. An annular tear is the ripping or tearing of the annulus fibrosus.  In plainer English, it’s a ligament tear.

What are the symptoms of an annular tear?

An annular tear is often mistaken for a simple back strain or pulled muscle. A person with an annular tear may feel pain that extends from the spine into an arm or leg. They might experience numbness, tingling or weakness in the extremity that makes walking and other simple activities difficult. Annular tear pain worsens when there is contact with a nearby nerve because of a herniated disc.

What causes an annular tear?

Annular tears may be brought on by repetitive actions over time, such as heavy lifting or bending, or by injury or trauma. It can also be part of the natural aging process whereby wear and tear or degeneration occurs.

How do I know if my annular tear is work-related and if I’m eligible for workers’ compensation?

Since an annular tear can be a natural result of aging, it is important to discuss your particular symptoms and work activities with your doctor to help determine if your injury is work-related. It may be clear cut if a sudden accident at work caused the tear and pain out of nowhere, but you may also be entitled to benefits if your repetitive movements at work led to your pain.  If you never had back problems before a work accident that’s a clear sign the injury is work related.

How do you treat an annular tear?

Once an annular tear is diagnosed through a physical exam, CT scan and/or MRI, treatment may be started. Mild tears may heal on their own with rest. Pain medication, cold/hot therapy, massage and physical therapy may be needed in some cases. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. It’s really important to get treatment with an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible.

While I never heard of an annular tear before I became an attorney in 1997, we’ve been involved in a lot of these cases for injured workers.  We would be happy to talk to you for free about any case. Fill out our contact form or call us at 888-705-1766 any time.