Degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVD) and disc herniation are two causes of low back pain. The aetiology of these disorders is unknown, but tissue weakening, which primarily occurs due to inherited genetic factors, ageing, nutritional compromise and loading history, is the basic factor causing disc degeneration. Symptomatic disc herniation mainly causes radicular pain. Current treatments of intervertebral disc degeneration and low back pain are based on alleviating the symptoms and comprise administration of painkillers or surgical methods such as spinal fusion. None of these methods is completely successful. Current research focuses on regeneration of the IVD and particularly on regeneration of the nucleus pulposus. Less attention has been directed to the repair or regeneration of the annulus fibrosus, although this is the key to successful nucleus pulposus, and therewith IVD, repair. This review focuses on the importance of restoring the function of the annulus fibrosus, as well as on the repair, replacement or regeneration of the annulus fibrosus in combination with restoration of the function of the nucleus pulposus, to treat low back pain. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.