Disc Tear Diagnosis

Diagnosing an annular disc tear is similar to the diagnosis of any common afflictions of the vertebral disc. There are three steps that are involved:

First, the doctor will take a medical history of the pain; when it first started, what you were doing that caused the pain, and what the pain feels like to you. You will also need to let your physician know if certain activities increase your pain, and if certain positions offer any relief or increase your pain level.

Next, the doctor will perform a physical examination on you by manipulating your body in ways that will help identify certain orthopedic and neurological conditions. Your range of motion, strength in your arms or legs, and response to nerve stimulation will be checked.

Diagnostic Tests for a Disc Tear

Lastly, your doctor may ask you to have an X-ray performed to rule out possible conditions other than an annular disc tear. An MRI is also necessary to properly diagnose a disc tear and asses its severity.. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment may begin.

What Is a Torn Disc?

A torn disc generally refers to a tear in the annular tissue (the outer layer of the spinal disc). A disc tear is typically caused by a combination of disc degeneration and trauma. When this combination occurs, the central disc material (nucleus) often moves into the torn area of the outer layer of the disc, forming an interpositional disc herniation. A torn disc can also escalate in severity when a portion of this nucleus seeps through the tear leading to a herniated disc.

One of the easiest ways to understand a torn disc is to picture a jelly donut. The jelly inside would be the nucleus, while the donut exterior would be the annulus. As the donut starts to get stale and dry up little cracks begin to form, and once these cracks tear, some of the jelly seeps into and eventually through the tear. Although a torn disc is technically a little more complicated than this, this is the basic concept behind it.