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Hi! Newbie Here with Annular Tear/Fissure

Hello all!

I have been coming to this site occasionally for some time now, but thought I would break out of my shell and introduce myself. First off, I would like to thank everyone on this board, who continues to provide helpful information that is given in a very supportive way. I am finding that with chronic pain, it is hard for my family and friends to understand what I am going through and often times I feel like a “broken record” and don’t want to bring them down anymore. There is nothing they can do about it. Most of the time, I feel like there is nothing I can do about it, so it can feel pretty lonely. I am glad for board forums, such as this, to get helpful feedback, support and understanding, along with a camaraderie feeling.
My story: I am a 37 year old single Mom (for the most part) with a significant other who works nights. I have had chronic back pain for almost 7 years now, since I fractured my L3. The pain would come and go in my lower back, but never what I have been experiencing within the past year. No specific injury occurred at that time. I just thought it was my back flaring up and the pain would eventually subside after a few manipulations from my DO. That was not the case. The pain gradually started spreading down the left leg, clear the to calf, then onto my right side. I started Physical therapy in November, that made it AWFUL!!!! I ended up having an MRI in Feb that showed an annular tear at the L5-S1 area. My dr told me that it should go away within 18 months. By April/May my pain had become increasingly worse! I had my first epidural spinal injection in June. The pain management Dr didn’t really think it was going to help, but thought we should try. The first injection seemed to help the right side leg pain, but not the left. I went in for my second epidural spinal injection in Aug. She missed and had to “poke” me several times, which created the worst 2-3 weeks of back pain, making my life ever more miserable (which I really didn’t think was possible). I was referred to a NS who told me there was nothing he could do for me…..I started bawling in his office. I don’t want to live on Percocet, Meloxicam and Gabapentin for the rest of my life!!!!! I convinced him to order another MRI, which I just had on Monday. This time I went and got a copy of the results to see for myself. ;-) I have my follow up with the arrogant NS (pardon my frankness) this afternoon. My Mom has agreed to go with me because I think it would be better to have someone there as support.
My current MRI confirms that the tear is still there, minor bulges (which the NS says EVERYONE HAS-tho prior MRI said broad based) at L4-5 and L5-S1 and trace of facet effusions from L3-4 and L5-S1 are seen.
I did a little bit of research and it appears that there are procedures to help, but my NS disagree’s or has not kept up with technology?? He told me that there is no explanation as to why I am in pain. He points out the Percocet and I said I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want HELP!!!! I am not a junky, look at my MR’s!!
My Pain Management Dr had recommended a different NS, so I am planning to get a second opinion, hopefully soon.
Thanks for reading my long ranting story. I am frustrated, depressed and feeling hopeless about my current situation. The only good thing is that my PCP understands me and has helped me in any way he can, which is comforting.
I will try and update what the NS has to say to Mom and I today at the visit. My guess is he will say he can’t help….
Again, thanks for reading and of course any advice is welcome or just sharing your story too. Like my Mom says “Misery loves company”. ;-)


  • Hi Anauncia - Glad you decided to post. I also have an annular tear, but at l4-l5. My story is not a very positive one, as I was never able to find a surgeon who felt confident they could improve my condition - in fact they were more worried about worsening it. Annular tears are tricky, because it's the usual - some people have them with agonizing pain, some have them with no pain at all. For some people, the tear heals after a while, and for some, the agonizing pain is never ending. That is the case for me, and I have been crippled since I injured my back five years ago - went from being a successful, healthy, energy executive - to being disabled, unable to work at all, barely able to manage basic ADL's, etc. etc.

    I have adjusted to my new life, however - I have just been through six months of mental health therapy which has helped me to manage and accept my situation. I also have an excellent pain management doctor. That's what I recommend to people who are having difficulty finding answers/treatment for their spine problems - get a good pain management doctor. And if you're depressed/anxious (many of us are) get a good therapist (mental health). At this point, I would also avoid any "manipulations" of your back by chiropractors; and I would also be careful about physical therapy (it also caused me a lot more pain and additional injury).

    I have had facet joint, epidural and sacroiliac joint injections - all helped a little - reduced sciatica and hip pain - but never really got to the heart of the problem. I would also recommend seeking out surgeons, but one who is confident they can help you. The "gold standard" test for determining "discogenic" pain (pain from the disc) is to have a discogram. Not fun, but it often can give you some answers. It is not an "investigational" test though - it is usually only ordered by a surgeon to make sure that the area they want to do surgery on (the level) is the actual cause of the pain. Pain pathways are very complicated, and the area of pathology does not always match the pain. From my experience, the type of surgery you're looking at is a fusion or an artificial disc replacement.

    But don't take my word on all this - I'm not a doctor. You can do a lot of research here on spine-health about the terms i've mentioned, and then search for postings from people with similar conditions and situations and who've had treatment. As I'm sure you're aware, the outcomes for treatments, even when people have similar conditions, varies greatly. Surgery is always a great risk, and they don't always have a positive outcome - you can read stories of people here who've had very negative outcomes.

    So - as I say, while you're working your way through all of this - get a good pain management doctor, get a mental health therapist to help you adjust mentally, if you need to - learn to accept and adjust to your limited mobility, rather than fight it - pain is extremely stressful.

    Good luck. Let us know how you're doing.
  • marriemarrie Posts: 1
    edited 10/01/2012 - 8:26 PM
    Hello all,
    I am newbie here, recently join this community very happy to join here..
    Hope i will get all my questions answers and stay here longer..
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