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Torn disc in lower back......any advice?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:32 AM in Lower Back Pain
So, I crashed my bike and tore an annular ligament in my lower back (at least that is the sports doc's diagnosis, no MRI or x-ray was done).

It's tender, there is some discomfort and inflammation in the lower back upper butt area. A few times a day, there is a sharp pain when I twist or turn the wrong way. I've been on steroids and vitamin I.

So, I'm looking for input from anyone who knows about these injuries. How long should I wait to ride again? How long does it take to heal? etc., etc.

The doc said "three months until you're back to your normal level of activity." He said take it easy until then, but I want to slowly get going again on the bike. It's been eight days now, and I haven't done squat except ice my back and watch TV. I think sitting actually makes it worse.



  • Hi and welcome! Since I don't know anything about torn ligaments the most I can say is to follow your doctors orders! Hopefully you are finding relief with what you are taking, and don't forget to ice!

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,349
    I tore (different times) both knee ligaments playing football. I was in a cast for about 5 weeks and was out for the season one year and out for about 8 weeks the second time.
    Depends on how bad the tear is.
    I cant say I know of torn back ligaments, so that is something you will need to get the advise from your doctor.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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  • Annular ligament is another name for the annulus fibrosis, or the structure around the nucleus pulposus of the disc. Without an MRI or discogram it is impossible to conclusively diagnose this, but I'm assuming that your exam must have given some indication that there is a disc injury without any nerve root irritation (ie, the disc isn't herniated or anything).

    But, since you're in the beginning stages of this and it sounds like the pain is manageable with modified activity then it will likely heal on its own. I had an annular tear, but after a year it never did not heal so I had surgery (not to scare you! The good news is most disc injuries heal on their own and do not require surgery!). Sitting is very aggravating to disc because of the increased intradiscal pressure with sitting, and I imagine your position cycling would also be very uncomfortable. I unfortunately think you might be out of the cycling for the full 3 months (which I do believe sounds right for the healing time). Just do what you can. For conservative management, my doctor recommended to avoid bending, twisting, and sitting for extended periods of time. It's good to be active as tolerated so your back muscles don't become atrophied, but it's important not to over do it and stress the disc too much...If you have to sit a lot for your job, it's good to get up every 30-45 minutes to walk around. Other than that there's really not much you can do to speed along the healing (unless you wanted to try PT, which is helpful for reducing pain and increasing core strength)

    Sounds like you're doing everything right. It's a long recovery, but it's worth it if taking a few months off can help you avoid surgery.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,349
    More definitive diagnostic tests should be done to verify what is your problem.
    lala329 said:

    Annular ligament is another name for the annulus fibrosis
    Thank you, never to old to pick up new information.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I would continue doing what you're doing plus add gentle walking to your regime. It is better to keep the fresh blood flowing to the disks than to take to bed and "rest."

    If you begin to develop pain in your legs, or are not starting to see improvement in a week or two, I would suggest you request a MRI of your lumbar area. Sports docs have their place, but they are not experts on a spinal injury. Chances are, your injury is what your doctor diagnosed, but, with a spinal injury that does not show improvement, you do not want to ignore other possible injuries.

    If you have ruptured a disk it is possible for it to heal on its own, but it does require a great deal of patience. Three months is the average of how long this process might take. At that point you will want to start back slowly to see how your back responds to the activity.

    Hope you start feeling better soon.
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  • Thanks for the replies everyone. The doc (a well-respected sports doc, but not a spine specialist) said I did not need an MRI because he was very confident in his diagnosis. I described the crash and where the pain was, and he watched me move around and did some tests with my legs.

    From what I've read, initial treatment is conservative anyway, so I think I'll hold off on the MRI for now.

    The steroids are done as of yesterday, so now it's just ice and ibuprofen. I've basically done nothing for eight days since the crash (some walking).

    Today I'm going to start walking longer and stretching, because everything is tight back there.

    I still have some sharp pains when I twist certain ways, and sitting seems to make everything worse. Sitting and leaning forward is OK (makes me hopeful about the bike), sitting and leaning back is awful.

    The pain often comes from the upper right butt area, and extends down through the hip area.

    Right now, it's uncomfortable, but manageable.

  • Get 2 MRI's.
    One without contrast and one with.
    While it is not 100%, the imageing will help give a better idea of what might be going on.

    The imaging is also subject to opinion / interpretation from various trained proffesionals.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • sayrebearssayrebear Posts: 1
    edited 02/17/2014 - 7:46 AM
    Lala329 - I know I'm jumping in here almost 5 years later but I found this thread while searching for information about a torn ligament in the back and I'm hoping maybe you're still around. You seem to know a lot about the injury and I noticed your picture and was curious if your torn ligament was due to a fall off a horse as mine was. I could barely walk for a week and it took 3-4 weeks before I could get in and out of my car without any pain or sit in a chair normally. The doctor wasn't too concerned as long as I slowly felt better. After about a month/month and a half I thought I was fine. But within a year the pain came back and I had to see an orthopedic surgeon who just wanted me to do physical therapy. He said I tore a ligament in my lower back but didn't specify which. He said if I kept the muscle around it strong I should be fine because my ligament was basically useless at this point. He also said I'm probably going to feel some pain around there from time to time. I'm curious if this is similar to what you went through but you opted to do the surgery? I guess overall I'm looking to find out if I might require surgery down the road. In addition, if you are a horseback rider, how has the injury impacted your riding? I ride on and off -- averaging once every week or 2 -- and sometimes I notice it takes a toll on me and sometimes I feel completely fine.
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