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Annular tear, lumbar, leaking nucleus pulposus, excruciating pain

Hello everyone. It's been a while since I posted here. I'm Molly, 45 y/o female, who in the past suffered a back injury for no apparent reason other than being overweight, and aging. I had torn my L4-L5, L5-S1 discs, and they were leaking. Numerous LESI's didn't help, Facet Joint Injections didn't help, and narcotics didn't help. I was taking six 10mg Lortabs and three 30mg Morphine XR tablets every day. Finally, after injections didn't help, my Neuro did a Discogram, which mimicked my pain and made me scream loud enough for people in the waiting room to hear me. And to confirm that I had indeed torn the discs and they were leaking.

It took a long time for the tears and discs to heal. I had a mental breakdown from such extended long pain, and ended up in a psych hospital for a few days. They took me off of my pain meds and taught me how to use Suboxone to control the pain. I did really well with that, but after four months of having to taste that nasty Suboxone film every day, I got SICK of it. I was on so much stuff, antidepressants, add-ons to the antidepressants, (which were causing me to have hallucinations), Cymbalta, Neurontin, valium, xanax, muscle relaxers, bp meds, diuretics, potassium, so much stuff. I just got so sick of it ALL that one day I quit taking everything! And I survived. I was virtually pain free and when I got all of that stuff out of my system, I felt soooo much better! My pain was down from a "10" to about a "2-3."

The doctors in the psych hospital taught me how taking all of those narcotics would actually make my pain WORSE over time. It made sense after I learned. The Suboxone helped my brain re-wire itself back to normal, while providing me with pain control, but w/o a 'high.' I'll admit it--I missed that high. But I sure did NOT miss the terrible pain! By proxy, I had become addicted to all of the pain meds, and more and more tolerant to it. Those doctors wanted me off of so much stuff, hence, the Suboxone. I say it saved my life!

Now, two years later, I've been doing well. The only meds I've been on are my blood pressure med and it's accompanying diuretic. A few months ago, I hurt myself and had to go back on pain mgmt. I take four 10mg percocets a day now. Doing ok. Until Wednesday. Standing up from my chair was what did it to me, halfway up I felt it, a HOT, SEARING, STABBING pain in my lumbar that made me cry out and fall back down onto my chair. My mom saw it happen. I was visiting her. Just out of the blue, this happens.

I am very upset with my body, because I have worked very hard the past 11 months at losing weight by following a Low-Carb, High-Fat diet. When you are on a diet like this, you do not need to exercise to lose the weight, it just comes off of you, which suited me, since exercise was out of the question. I live in the country, on a dirt road, no sidewalks, no stores or neighbors. So even walking is not an option. It is very difficult to walk on sand! This low carb no exercise lifestyle is for me! And what a change it has made, a great wonderful change!

I have lost 53lbs so far. From a starting weight of 244lbs, and a height of 5'4". I'm down to 191 lbs now. Down 4 pant sizes! Feeling great, happy! Not much pain at all. Until Wednesday, and BAM!

By Saturday, my pain increased to such levels that I was screaming in agony and had to be taken to the ER. I rec'd a shot of Dilauded, which did nothing for my pain, but calmed me down. I had an x-ray, which was horrific, the pain getting on that table was intense. I screamed and sobbed and cried. Scared the x-ray technician. X-ray found no broken bones. And an x-ray will NOT show annular tears or leaking discs.

I KNOW I have torn a disc, or discs, again. I have been through this three or four times in the past, where the pain was intense and unbearable. I KNOW this pain. I KNOW what it is from--the annular tears and leaking pulposus. There is NO doubt. I've had MRI's and Myelograms in the past, which confirmed it. This intense pain is no stranger to me--- I KNOW it well. It is not the pain from a bulging disc, or a herniated one even, but from the actual leaking of the nucleus. The pain from the nerves INSIDE the disc, where the tears are. The pulposus pushing on other nerves.

To try to describe it, it is like this:

A constant burning in my lower back, which radiates down the tops of my thighs to my knees.

A throbbing jolt of pain from my hips down the tops of my thighs to my knees, like a 'toothache' in my legs.

A hot, stabbing, sudden, sharp pain in the disc area, like someone has just stabbed me with a red hot ice pick.

Pain when I sit down initially. I think that sitting down is the most painful thing about this, it causes me short sharp stabbing pains in the disc area.

Pain when I stand up, sharp pain that makes me gasp or scream, and makes it to where I cannot stand up straight.

Pain that causes me to walk bent over, forward, and paddle my hands at my sides.

Sharp pain at the disc level at every step I take, when my foot moves, more for the right foot than the left, making me shuffle in short staggering steps.

Sharp intense pain at the disc level when trying to lie down in bed, as if every movement of the intevertabral bodies makes me feel this agonizing pain.

Sharp pain at the disc when I try to roll over in bed, or to get OUT of bed, which means many attempts to sit up and get out of bed, with a lot of screaming, before I actually can get out.

Pain that throbs and feels hot at the disc level.

A sharp jolt of lightning hot pain at the disc level for any tiny move I make, which causes me to scream out in pain.

Pain that makes me cry and cry and sob and cry even more, until I am dehydrated. Dehydration because I KNOW it will hurt to get up, to sit on the toilet, to pee, so I avoid taking in fluids to avoid having to pee.

A throbbing pain in my disc level when I have to go #2 if I "push."

Can anyone relate to this? Have you ever experienced pain so sudden and sharp, so red hot and throbbing, that you scream and scream your head off and cry and sob? Pain that makes you yelp at every step or move?

I utilize a hard rigid plastic back brace that helps to stabilize my spine; it offers me a little short lived relief. I don't wear it constantly, but when I hurt this bad, it DOES help. But it ALSO feels good to remove it after an hour or two in between using it. However, I cannot lay down with it, so I only use it when I am sitting.

I also use a re-freezable clay ice pack that I slip between my brace and back, which sort of numbs everything for a while and helps a little.

NSAID's don't help. My narcotics don't help. Physical therapy and stretching is OUT OF THE QUESTION when I can't even stand or walk right now. (I don't know WHY people always suggest PT, it's like they DO NOT UNDERSTAND!)

All I can do is lay here on the sofa all day, easier to get up from than in my high bed, and be miserable.

Thanks for letting me vent and rant and get it out. If anyone can empathize with me, I'd love to hear your story. To know I'm not alone...



  • Hi! I have several herniated discs, tears, leaks..ugh! I know. I would still recommend seeing a specialist & getting an MRI. You're correct about X-rays not showing discs but if you've got something impinging on the nerves in your back you need to know about it. I've also had disc matter pressing on my sciatic nerve & I'd describe it in the same way! When we've been on this journey for a long time it's possible of falling into the trap of self diagnosis...been there, done that too! ;-)

    I'm so sorry you're going through all this again. Take a deep breath! It doesn't mean that history is going to repeat its self. You've been through this before, experience will help...you know it's not forever. Chronic pain sucks but we have to take each new hurdle & hobble over it the best we can. Good luck, we're all stronger than we think we are. This too shall pass. ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • seen at all on MRI or CT scan. The first thing you need to do is make an appointment with a board certified spine surgeon and get the appropriate testing done to find out exactly what is causing the pain you are having.
    Injections and medications, physical therapy are not going to resolve an annular tear, if that is in fact, what is causing the sudden pain. They are temporary measures meant to reduce inflammation and pain, not a cure for a tear.

  • Discogram can be done to confirm tear in the disc . They inject the disc and put pressure on it then do a ct scan see if its leaking , that's how they found my tear in my disc , Ok maybe you guys already know this but I figured I mention it anyways, I learned to take my pain pills tossing it in the air and catching it in my mouth , Don't laugh, I bet none of you can do it , git-er-done
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • Thank you guys so much for reading my really long post and commenting! It has been a really long five days, and this is only the beginning.

    I did have a Discogram, the most painful test ever done! My new Neurosurgeon says no one should have to go through a discogram these days---it is barbaric in practice and no one should have a hole punched into a disc because it means there IS a hole there, a weak spot that can lead to further problems, pain, herniations, etc.

    My new doctor doesn't want to do a discogram on me. I've already had it done in the past, and by god, i will NEVER go through that again!

    I guess all I can do is wait this out. I am already disabled---visually---so I get to stay home and be a happy housewife. I have plenty of time to lay around and rest and heal.

    It's just frustrating that every move means a sharp pain that makes me scream. My poor husband is surely so tired of me hollering and yelping so much!!
  • I hope you start feeling better soon. I know what it's like to suffer with pain...not necessarily exactly what you are going through but pain nonetheless. It's frustrating to say the least. Feel better soon and keep us posted.
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