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Spine and Back Health

Healing time of annular tear

06/26/2008

Question:

A neurosurgeon diagnosed my back irritation and foot and ankle numbness to the tear in my L5/S1 area. Apparently, it is not so much the bulge causing pressure on the nerve root, but the location of the minute tear, right on top of the S1 nerve root. Can these tears heal and if so, how long does it take? Would pilates (arching of the lower back by using the abs) "pull" or irritate the nerve root?

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. Yes, annular tears do heal, though they can often take a frustratingly long time to do so. Often it takes 6-12 weeks for things to really settle down. The use of anti-inflammatory medications [e.g. ibuprofen (also known as Motrin or Advil), naprosyn (also known as Aleve), or even oral corticosteroids (often prescribed as a "Medrol dose pack")] can often help the process "cool down" faster. I would avoid any strenuous exercise while your symptoms are still present, including Pilates. Good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University