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DDD - annular tear - single level surgery?

AppledaveAAppledave Posts: 26
edited 12/30/2018 - 3:01 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease

Hi new to the fourm. [edit]

I injured my back age 16 weightlifting and has degenerated since. Finally had an MRI - now aged 36 my L4/5 has a full thickness annular tear, bulge and left sided pins n needles in the foot. Pain in 99.9% localised spinal pain. All my other discs are healthy.

I’ve learned to manage pain for years though more and more frequent muscle spasm which floor me and take 24-48 hrs to settle. I’ve not got a spondylolythesis   though feel unstable if I cough, lift, lie on my side’s really effective all aspects of family life.

Is it just a time thing been bad for 1 year now especially last 6 months. Or should I push for injections/spinal fusion. I literally survive day to day....

Already tried physio stretching which aggravated symptoms and swimming also. 

Edited by Liz, Spine-health Moderator



  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 992


    Herniation's typically don't go away with time... they usually get worse... as you are experiencing.  Unlike most parts of your body your spinal discs do not regenerate... so the chances of your L4-L5 disc "healing" with time is very unlikely.  The torn outer wall in your L4-L5 disc will scar over but it will not heal like a cut on your finger and it will forever be compromised in it's function.  If you haven't already done so you should consult a spine specialist and start some kind of treatment as discussed and agreed together with him/her. There are many options to consider and no two patients or conditions are exactly the same.  Most doctors will start with some kind of non-invasive treatment like ESI injections or PT... before progressing to surgical options... but it could be your condition has degenerated to the point that your doctor will go straight to some kind of surgical option.    

    Harry - 65 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • You didn’t mention anything about pain shooting down your leg or into your groin, hip, etc.

    In my experience a surgeon won’t operate unless the problem causes pain in more areas than just your back.

    It sounds like your pain is confined to your back only. 

    I would have a neurosurgeon review my MRI and go from there.

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  • Hi thanks for the messages it’s rare I get referred pain in the leg and it’s very mild though concerned it may progress over time. 

    I’m not in constant pain which is one factor the surgeon I’ve seen wouldn’t operate and also only a 50-60% of success with perhaps a 5 year benefit then the disc above could have problems...

  • I’ve seen a lot of people here say that a doctor won’t operate unless the radicular pain (groin, leg, etc.) is worse than the back pain.

    My pain is the least in my back but I’m not a candidate for surgery. I think I’m not a candidate because there is no DDD at this time. 

    My problem disc is herniated but still well-hydrated. 

    Because of this unusual situation it means I’m at a standstill. 

    Physical therapy and injections didn’t help. I don’t know if surgery would help because it’s not an option.

  • Hi again L4_5 our if curiousity how old are you? Is the herniation small or large? I’ve read that small ones do better by themselves left alone  than surgery.

    I worry that my degenerative disc will lose height press on nerves which then may cause permanent irreversible damage/pain...

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  • L4_L5LL4_L5 Posts: 1,416
    edited 12/30/2018 - 11:23 AM

    I’m about 10 years older than you. It’s supposedly small. But I do too much bending and lifting and twisting I’m afraid. I never get any break. Maybe that’s why I’m not improving after three years.

  • Did you have an epidural steroid injection? What was that like? 3 years is tough going is your work/lifestyle very physical? Again I’ve heard it can take years for disc pain to ‘burn’ out...

  • I’ve heard 18-24 months for an annular tear. It’s been almost 36 months.

    My guess is I’m overdoing it on a daily basis.

    I’ve been on light duty for almost three years at work. But I don’t think it’s light enough. Too much bending over, lifting, etc.

    Yes I’ve had two epidural shots. Neither helped. 

    The injection doctor wants an MRI of my hip because I was told a back injury can mimic a hip injury and vice versa.

    If I get in a warm pool and move around I’ll feel better temporarily but 30-40 minutes after getting out of the water the pain climbs back to the usual high levels.

    I’ll have to wait and see what the hip MRI says.

  • Yes hip MRI sounds logical to me.

    What type of work environment are you in?

    I’m considering taking glucosamine and chondroitin though unsure what the evidence says or people’s opionions. Magnesium for muscle pain and tuneric have also been recommended to me.

  • It’s a fairly active work environment usually. Not a desk job. Can’t get into specifics I’m afraid.

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