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An annular tear occurs when the tough exterior of the intervertebral disc (annulus fibrosus) rips or tears. The intervertebral discs serve as cushions between the vertebrae acting as shock absorbers. They provide support to the bone structure of the neck and back and if too much stress is exerted on a disc, such as continuous activities such as lifting, sitting or sudden trauma, an annular tear can occur.
Most annular tears are caused by the natural aging process. Since the neck and back bear most of our body weight, they are subject to a great deal of damage over time and may lead to annular tears with repetitive motion since the annulus is already in a weakened state.