Welcome to the board. You have come to a good place to get some basic information about your issues from people have experienced similar problems.
It would be helpful if we had a bit more information. I am not clear on whether you had a MRI of the cervical spine or was it the lumbar spine? Where is your back pain located and what type of symptoms do you have? Is there any numbness? Does it radiate down your leg?
I'm not going to make any specific comments at this point but just give you some general information about annular tears. The intervertebral disc is the softer tissue that is located between two bony plates called the vertebrae. There are 23 discs in the human spine. The primary purpose of the disc is to act like a shock absorber between the hard, bony vertebrae. They provide cushioning and also some ability to move the spine, bending and twisting. When we are young, the disc is composed of about 80% water. As we age, they gradually lose some height and begin to dry out as there is no way to keep them well-hydrated.
The disc is composed of two parts: the soft inner core, called the nucleus pulposis and a surrounding membrane that encompasses the nucleus that is called the annulus fibrosis. The outer ring is tough and is built like a radial tire. There are concentric rings of tough ligament-type fiber that surround the nucleus and serve to protect it.
Sometimes a tear will develop in this annulus ring, and it is known as an "annular tear." It can tear due to a sudden injury, often of a twisting nature, or it can tear just through normal living -- wear and tear.
While it is not a serious condition, it can be painful. It can be the main cause of back pain, and it can also cause leg pain. This leg pain may be either unilateral or bilateral, and it can switch from one leg to the other. Pain is often worse when the patient is sitting -- more so than when standing or walking. Some other things than can make the pain worse are coughing and sneezing, bending forward and lifting.
An annular tear can irritate a spinal nerve, but almost always there will not be any nerve compression associated with an annular tear.
GPs and family doctors are not a great source of information when it comes to problems with the back and neck. I personally wasted over a year with my internist, who assured my MRI looked perfectly and typically formal for someone "my age." When I finally got around to going to a spine surgeon, he spent about 15 sec. looking at the MRI before he told me the only thing that would relieve my pain was to have surgery. He had immediately noted an instability in my lower lumbar spine that my internist had not considered clinically significant.
If you are suffering from undiagnosed back pain, I would suggest you make an appointment with a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon who limit their practice to issues of the neck and back. These specialists will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and plan for treatment, and will always recommend conservative methods, and surgery will be a last resort...despite their training as surgeons.
I am guessing your GP didn't mention the tears because it is not something you would be referred to a surgeon for, and, in his estimation, they were not a significant finding. He has no way of knowing the extent to which they may be causing you pain.
Last edited by teteri66; 02-04-2012 at 06:22 PM.