An annular disc tear is a tear in the outer ligamentous ring. This ligament is composed of strong fibers which are highly innervated with pain receptors so when a tear does occur it can cause significant symptoms. As the discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, whenever there is a high impact activity, trauma, or exertional/straining movements this added pressure wears on the disc. With increased pressure the discs will start to break down, lose hydration and flexibility contributing to cracks and tears. Tears in the outer ring of the disc, the annulus fibrosus, can cause mild to severe pain depending on where the tear is located. Although annular tears can occur throughout the spine they are more common in the neck and low back as these are more mobile than the thoracic spine. The pain results from tearing of the ligamentous fibers, leading to inflammation which may aggravate surrounding neural structures.

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