What is a Disc Tear?

Disc TearA disc tear generally refers to when the disc's outer tissue tears and moves into the nucleus, also known as the central tissue of the disc. Age, repetitive strain and genetics can all contribute to the weakening or tearing of a disc. This condition is brought on by degenerative disc disease which is a typical wear and tear process of aging, or can also be caused by a specific trauma or when the disc tears and moves into the nucleus it often forms a disc herniation or interpositional disc herniation.

Disc Tear Symptons

Constant low back pain or localized upper or lower back pain occurs in the area of the torn disc as the disc nucleus pushes into the damaged disc outer tissue and comes into contact with the sinu-vertebral nerves. As the nucleus pushes through the disc tear and places pressure on other nerves and surrounding tissue, symptoms such as pinched nerve pain, sciatica, or spinal stenosis may occur.

How is a Disc Tear Diagnosed?

The two most common torn disc causes are aging and traumatic injury. The natural degenerative process of aging weakens our discs, leaving them at risk of tearing. Typically, by the age of 30, our discs have already begun to weaken and lose their flexibility. Once this occurs, simple traumas such as twisting or bending might be how you get a disc tear. Traumatic injuries account for most torn disc causes in younger, healthier spines.

Disc Tear Treatment Options

Correctly diagnosing your condition is the first step in treatment. Depending on the severity of the disc tear, we would devise a treatment plan accordingly. Whether that treatment be surgical or non-surgical, our board certified physicians and staff will guide you through every step of the treatment process.


Our comprehensive spine center might recommend a conservative treatment plan for healing torn discs, which include the use of anti-inflammatory medicines and therapeutic exercises to strengthen surrounding muscle.


Another option, depending on the condition of the tear is an endoscopic discectomy. It is a low risk procedure with a low incidence of complications. If necessary, another option is an open back procedure, such as lumbar fusion.  In the case of the less invasive procedure, most patients report immediate back pain relief before they walk out the door, and enjoy the benefit of a very limited recovery time. However, with either procedure because it involves the spine, it is strongly recommended that a board certified spinal surgeon perform the procedure. Every physician at our comprehensive spine center is a board certified spinal surgeon.

If you need more information about this condition, feel free to visit our spine educational videos page or contact us to speak to a spine specialist.