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Disc Tears

What is a disc tear?

A Chiropractor is showing a patient spinal disc tears using a model of the spine.
The human body is made up of thousands of small parts that must work together simultaneously, allowing us to move about and perform daily activities. The spine consists of three main sections, 26 vertebrae, and 23 discs. Trauma following a car, sports, or work accident and age-related degeneration leaves a person at an increased risk of developing a disk tear.

A torn disc is a serious condition where the outer layer of an intervertebral disc, known as the annulus, is ripped apart exposing the nucleus or soft, jelly-like interior of the vertebrae. An annular disc tear results in pressure on the spinal column and nerves creating a painful or tingling sensation that can be felt throughout the body.

There are three main types of annular disc tear including:

Radial annular disc tear

A radial disc tear begins in the center of a disc and extends to the outer layers of the annulus. A complete radial tear leaves a person more susceptible to developing a herniated disc.

Peripheral annular disk tear

A peripheral disk tear affects the outermost layers of the annulus and is most often the result of sudden, unexpected trauma. Many people with a peripheral annular disc tear experience accelerated wear of the affected disc.

Concentric annular disk tear

A concentric disk tear develops and remains contained inside the annulus. It is often caused by a hard impact injury from sports or a car accident leading to inflammation of the spine, a pinched nerve, stenosis, and osteoarthritis.

Causes of an annular disc tear

A disc tear is most commonly the result of:

Bone spurs

A bone spur is a bony knob that forms on the ends of bones due to increased inflammation. While bone spurs are not harmful in themselves, when they extend into the discs they increase the chance of causing a rupture.


High-impact jobs like construction, nursing, and sports require constant heavy lifting, resulting in overuse of the spinal column, vertebrae, and discs.

Traumatic injury

Millions of people suffer a traumatic injury at some point in their life, whether it be due to a sports-related injury, work accident, or automobile accident.
A model of the human spine demonstrating disc tears.

What are the symptoms of an annular disk tear?

Many people suffering from an annular tear do not experience symptoms of numbness, tingling, or pain. However, those who do develop symptoms may experience pain in the neck, back, or spine as well as numbness, tingling, spasms, or muscle cramping.

Symptoms of an annular disk tear vary depending on the location of the tear and may include:

Lumbar disk tear symptoms

The lumbar spine consists of five vertebrae in the lower area of the back, located between the ribs and pelvic bone. It is home to intervertebral discs, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and ligaments. An annular disk tear in the lumbar spine produces symptoms of:
Pain in the lower back
Sciatic pain that radiates to the legs or buttocks
Tingling, numbness, and weakness in the legs 
A decrease in flexibility or movement in the back 
Muscle spasms 

Cervical disc tear symptoms

The neck region or cervical spine is composed of 7 bones separated by intervertebral discs. A disk tear in this region of the spine may leave a person to suffer from:
Pain in the neck
Tingling, weakness, and numbness in the arms
A decrease in movement or flexibility in the neck         
Muscle spasms
The absence of symptoms when suffering from an annular disk tear does not mean the tear is any less severe. Continual or repetitive pressure on the affected area can worsen the tear and potentially lead to a bulging or herniated disc.

Though the annular discs found in the spine are elastic and jelly-filled to allow for adequate, flexible movements, they begin to dry out as you age. When the exterior annulus becomes too dry, it can develop a small, seemingly harmless crack. However, when a crack forms, the jelly-like interior rushes to the affected area, worsening the small tear.

What is the treatment for an annular disc tear?


Treatment for an annular disk tear varies based upon the severity of the injury and is designed to alleviate symptoms in the least invasive way through medication, therapy, and chiropractic care. Under the direct supervision of a licensed chiropractor, controlled, careful movements can promote healing of the impacted disc by helping to keep the spine mobile. Chiropractic treatment is a non-invasive care plan for an annular disk tear that may include:

Flexion-distraction technique:

Flexion-distraction is a type of chiropractic treatment that focuses on alleviating pressure on an annular disc. A skilled chiropractor will instruct you to lay on a bed where they can easily stretch your spine and apply slight pressure on the affected area. Flexion-distraction treatment is a pain-free treatment designed to move the affected disc, thus alleviating pressure on the nerves in the area.

Pelvic blocking techniques:

Pelvic blocking is a method of care that utilizes wedge pillows strategically placed beneath each side of the pelvis to naturally lift the disc from the affected nerve to reduce symptoms.

Seeking chiropractic care in the Oregon area

Have you recently suffered a traumatic injury following a car accident or sports or work-related injury? As the best-rated chiropractor in Portland, Oregon, the doctors at Accident Care Chiropractic are here for you!

At Accident Care Chiropractic, we offer 15 locations throughout Oregon and Washington to treat more people suffering from pain or pressure after a traumatic injury. Our staff specializes in the treatment of an injury following an automobile accident, including whiplash, a neck or back injury, and other aches or pains.

The physicians at Accident Care Chiropractic understand more than anyone the impact that an automobile accident can have on the body with or without the presence of symptoms. It is important to seek chiropractic care immediately following an injury as it can take weeks for symptoms to appear with the injury worsening over time.

For those with an annular disk tear or associated nerve damage that do not experience relief from chiropractor treatment alone, surgery may help. If surgical intervention is required, our chiropractors are available to refer you to a recommended specialist and consult with them to create an optimal recovery plan.

Disc Tear Therapy at Accident Care Chiropractic

If you or a loved one have recently been involved in an accident or are experiencing pain in the neck or back, reach out to our specialists for a consultation today.

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