annular tear

How to Tell if Your Pain is Caused by an Annular Tear

Unfortunately for us, most people suffer from some type of back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, 80% of people will have back pain at some point, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

But there’s a difference between a sore back after hunching over your computer all day and a serious back injury. An annular tear is one type of back injury that you shouldn’t ignore.

But how can you tell whether your back pain is the result of an annular tear or if it’s just sore because you slept funny on your mother-in-law’s guest bed?

We’re going to go over exactly what an annular tear is, how you can tell if that’s what you have, and what you can do to treat your symptoms.

What Is an Annular Tear?

Our spines are made up of bones called vertebrae. In between the vertebrae are discs that help to protect and cushion the bones. This cushioning helps them to absorb any large shocks or pressure applied to the spine as well as distribute the pressure/weight on our back evenly to avoid one part of the back taking too much weight.

These discs are made of two distinct materials. One part is a soft, gel-like fluid that serves as the cushion.

The other part of the disc is made of something called annulus fibrosus. These are strong fibers that hold the disc together and keep them in place.

An annular tear is when these fibers, well, tear. These tears can be minor and small at the beginning with little to no symptoms. However, they get progressively worse, which can lead to the inner “gel” of the disc to leak out.

When this happens, the nerves in the spine can be impacts, which leads to a great deal of pain.

What Causes Annular Tears?

Most annular tears occur in the lumbar spine, which is a fancy way of saying the lower back. While it’s not impossible for them to happen in other parts of the spine, they’re most common in the lower back.

But what causes this to happen? One of the main causes is something we can’t do much about aging.

As we get older, normal wear and tear lead to parts of our body to weaken. This includes the parts of our back like the vertebrae and the discs. When these parts get weaker, it’s easier for injuries like tears to occur.

There are other factors that can lead to annular tears. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re at a higher risk of an annular tear. The extra weight puts excess pressure and weight on the spine, which leads to tears.

Annular tears can also be the result of accidents, especially ones with sudden or jarring movement of your weight. This could be a car accident, a sports injury, or even just lifting a heavy box incorrectly. When you combine these physical activities with age or obesity, you’re at a much higher risk.

Symptoms of an Annular Tear

Minor or small annular tears usually have no symptoms. However, as the tear gets bigger, symptoms will begin to appear.

The main symptom of annular tears is pain. You’ll have pain in your back that could radiate from the point of the tear to other parts of your back. You may also experience pain in your legs as well.

Difficulty Sitting And/Or Standing

We use our back for almost every movement or activity, even if you don’t realize it. Because of this, you may have trouble getting any relief at all when you have an annular tear.

Even sitting or standing can be very painful.

Consistent Symptoms

As we said before, we use our back all the time. This means that pretty much no matter what you’re doing, you’re going to still have pain if you have an annular tear.

Doesn’t matter if you’re on a hike, sitting in your car, or laying down on a fluffy soft bed. You’ll still be feeling pain.

Worsening Symptoms

If your tear isn’t treated, the condition will get progressively worse. You’ll experience:

  • Worsening pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness in the limbs/affected area
  • General discomfort
  • Bulging Disc

If you notice symptoms worsening, you should definitely see a doctor that can diagnose an annular tear.

Diagnosis

On that topic, let’s look at how you can diagnose an annular tear. If you have any or all of the above symptoms, there’s a chance that it’s an annular tear. The likelihood that your pain is an annular tear increases if it’s lower back pain, if you’re older, if you’re overweight, and if you have all of the symptoms listed.

However, to get an official diagnosis you’ll need to see a doctor. They’ll do a full work-up and will probably order an MRI. An MRI will be able to definitively show an annular tear (if that’s what you have).

The doctor can also use a CT scan or a discogram to determine the exact location of the tear.

Treatment Options

If you do have an annular tear, there are several treatment methods. You’ll probably start conservatively in order to avoid surgery: pain medication, anti-inflammatories, weight loss regimens, physical therapy, etc. Annular tears can take up to 2 years to fully heal.

Only when these treatment methods fail, or if your condition is worsening, will a doctor recommend surgery. There are traditional surgery options, endoscopic surgical techniques, and even some experimental stem cell treatments you can try.

Contact Us for More Information

If you have an annular tear, it can progress into a serious and painful condition. Any sort of consistent or recurring back pain should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible to rule out any serious condition and to get you started on a treatment plan as soon as possible.

Contact us to set up an appointment or to ask any other questions you have.

si joint pain symptoms

5 SI Joint Pain Symptoms and Potential Causes

Do you regularly experience pain in your hips and lower back?

If so, you could very well be suffering from sacroiliac joint pain. After all, such joint pain affects 15 to 20% of the world’s population.

The question is: how do you know if your SI joints are the cause of your pain? The answer is: by looking out for relevant symptoms. Here are 5 SI joint pain symptoms and some of their potential causes.

Understanding Sacroiliac Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joints are located at the bottom of the spine in close proximity to the hips, connecting the ilium and the sacrum bones. These joints are vitally important in regulating body weight throughout the pelvis, reducing the stress of this weight so that it doesn’t cause any undue pain.

The problems start when the sacrum and ilium bones lose alignment within the SI joints. As this happens, the weight of the body applies pressure to the nerve endings in the joints. This results in a shooting pain that is, at best, extremely uncomfortable, and, at worst, physically debilitating.

SI Joint Pain Symptoms

There are quite a few sacroiliac joint pain symptoms, some of which involve pain, some of which involve posture, and some of which involve coordination. While all of these symptoms alone can be indicative of other ailments, all of these symptoms together are typically indicative of sacroiliac joint issues.

They are as follows:

1. Pain in the Lower Back

One of the most obvious symptoms that your SI joints are impaired is if your lower back is in pain. Though lower back pain can be indicative of other physical ailments, it’s very often indicative of misaligned SI joints.

Typically, this pain will exist in one side of the lower back. However, if both SI joints have been impaired, you’ll be able to feel it on both sides of your body.

2. Rigidity

Another common sign of sacroiliac joint issues is rigidity. If you’re feeling stiffness in your pelvic area, your SI joints could very well be the cause.

Generally, this rigidity will prevent you from moving in the way that you would normally move. You might have to exert an unusual amount of energy in order to maneuver your body.

3. Lack of Balance

One of the fairly common sacroiliac joint pain symptoms is a lack of balance. If you have trouble walking in a straight line, your SI joints could be to blame.

This lack of balance typically occurs because the affected individual feels as if his or her lower back is going to give out. This can cause said individual to favor one side of the body over the other.

4. Weakness in the Legs

Do you feel as if your legs are going to give out every time you stand up? This is another common symptom of sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

5. Pelvic Pain

Pelvic pain can come from a variety of different ailments. However, SI joint misalignment is one of the most common.

Impaired SI joints can cause a shooting and stinging pain to travel through your groin area. This is especially true when you stand up or walk.

SI Joint Pain Causes

There is no shortage of causes of SI joint pain. Everything from diseases to injuries and improper movement can cause severe SI joint pain. Some of the more common causes are listed below.

Abnormal Walking Style

Did you know that the way you walk can actually lead to pain and discomfort in your back? Often times, an abnormal walking style will lead to SI joint misalignment.

Abnormal walking styles come about for a number of different reasons. In some cases, they arise simply because one leg is longer than the other. In other cases, they arise due to bad habits.

Often times, due to the seismic changes in their bodies, pregnant women will develop abnormal walking styles. Fortunately, in most cases, after they have delivered their babies, their walking styles go back to normal.

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis which arises when an excess of uric acid develops in the body. Unfortunately, this acid travels to the joints, where it solidifies and causes severe pain.

While the joints in the feet are the ones which are most commonly affected by gout, the SI joints can be affected by gout as well. Gout is not a condition which presents itself at all times. Typically, it presents itself in short bursts, attacking quickly, and then retreating.

Arthritis

Apart from gout, there are two types of arthritis which can cause SI joint pain. These are osteoarthritis and AS, or Ankylosing spondylitis.

Osteoarthritis worsens with age, and involves the slow deterioration of cartilage in the body. It’s often accompanied by back pain, affecting the vertebrae and SI joints, particularly.

AS is a form of inflammatory arthritis which causes rigidity in the spine. Those who suffer from this disease typically also suffer from SI joint pain.

Pregnancy

As was discussed above, pregnant women often encounter SI joint pain due to changes in their walking styles. However, a change in walking style isn’t the only way that SI joint pain can present itself in pregnant women.

As hormones are released in the pregnant body, the body’s joints become more “stretchy”. This is done to allow for a more seamless delivery of the baby.

Unfortunately, stretchy joints are also vulnerable joints. Therefore, pregnant women stand a good chance of experiencing pain in their sacroiliac joints.

Direct Injury

In some cases, SI joints will become impaired through simple injury. Losing your balance and falling, getting in an accident, or hurting yourself while playing basketball are all ways that your SI joints could become misaligned.

Experiencing Sacroiliac Joint Pain Symptoms?

Are you experiencing SI joint pain symptoms? Looking for treatment for these symptoms in the Hackettstown, New Jersey area? If so, the doctors at Executive Spine Surgery are the people to see.

Using minimally invasive procedures, we have relieved sacroiliac joint pain in a variety of different patients. We would love to do the same for you.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

endoscopic discectomy

Is Endoscopic Discectomy Right for You? 5 Things You Need to Know

Do you suffer from chronic back pain?

If so, you’re not alone. The American Chiropractic Association reveals that back pain plagues approximately 31 million Americans. Back pain ruins the quality of life, as many sufferers miss work, stop engaging in physical activities, and turn to pain medications that can make them sleepy.

Back pain can be caused by a number of ailments, which all require different routes of treatment. If you suffer from chronic back pain caused by a herniated disc, then you may want to consider undergoing an endoscopic discectomy.

What Is an Endoscopic Discectomy?

This procedure removes herniated disc material through a minimally invasive surgical procedure. The surgeon makes a small incision to insert a camera and microsurgical tools. This avoids the need to make large, damaging incisions.

Why Choose this Procedure?

Herniated discs cause extreme pain. When an injury ruptures them, a jelly-like inside spills out and press on nerves. This results in serious pain that this surgery eliminates. Also, this surgery offers a much quicker recovery time than the traditional herniated disc surgery. It does not damage the neck muscles as the alternative does.

5 Things You Should Know

Before choosing any treatments, you should know exactly what you are signing on for. Read on for 5 facts you should know about an endoscopic discectomy.

1. You Reap Recovery Perks

Typically, the surgery ends in about a half hour, as opposed to hours on the operating table. The patient can go recover at home after a couple of hours and expect to resume normal activities within a couple of weeks.

This sounds especially amazing when you compare it to traditional herniated disc surgery. In comparison with an artificial disk replacement or spinal fusion, patients face up to a three month recovery time.

Furthermore, you will not need the cervical immobilization collar, if your herniated disc is in the cervical region. Patients who receive the spinal fusion require this uncomfortable device for anywhere from 4-6 weeks, to support their neck and allow for proper healing.

2. You Can Stay Conscious

Some people simply do not like the thought of going under anesthesia and therefore avoid surgery. Other people simply cannot go under due to life-threatening allergies or underlying conditions. If you’re one of those people, then you may want to think about choosing this procedure.

Though some surgeons do use anesthesia for this surgery, they often give the option to perform it under a local anesthesia. This means that they blocking nerve signals from reaching the pain, so the patient does not feel anything in that area.

This eliminates the groggy feeling along with the risks involved with going under. Patients may find this a better option since the surgery only lasts about 30 minutes.

3. You Can Choose Alternatives to Pain Medicine for Recovery

Following herniated disc surgery, many people take opiate-based pain pills and strong noninflammatory medications. This can lead to a serious addiction. You should know that after your surgery, you can choose from other options.

Acupuncture

Nearly every culture has used acupuncture for medicinal purposes throughout history. The acupuncturist strategically places thin needles into the skin in order to stimulate natural healing properties and block pain signals.

Because of our learned dependency on pharmaceuticals, some people view this as a type of pseudoscience, however, research says otherwise. An extensive study reveals that acupuncture worked just as well as traditional pain medications for the first few weeks of treatment, but proved superior for pain management in the long term.

Like the minimally invasive microdiscectomy, acupuncture comes with far fewer risks than the traditional alternative. Moreover, the treatment often involves a whole body healing in addition to minimizing the pain.

Therapy

Though you will feel real pain following surgery, underlying stressors and/or mental conditions can exacerbate your perception of it. Even if you typically do not suffer from anxiety or depression, surgery can sometimes trigger these conditions in some people, especially if they enjoy being on the go.

Consider seeing a therapist before and following your arthroscopic back surgery to help you cope with your emotional pain. This will help keep your physical pain under control.

Celery Seed Extract

This natural supplement continues to gain popularity, as the Arthritis Foundation reveres celery seed extract for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation. Its volatile components contain a number of healing properties that can help you eliminate the need for pain medications and NSAID’s following your surgery.

Though anything medicinal comes with some side effects, the mild side effects of celery seed do not compare those of prescription medications. Ask your surgeon if taking this supplement after your procedure can replace the medications.

4. You Need Physical Therapy Afterwards

Unfortunately, this surgery is not magic. You do not undergo it and effortlessly feel healed.

Though this procedure minimizes your risks of muscle damage your muscles do atrophy as you rest them for recovery. Weakened neck and back muscles leave your spine unsupported and can lead to pain and risk of further injury.

Seeing a physical therapist decreases your time to complete recovery. Strategically and safely working your muscles in a controlled setting will improve your overall quality of life following surgery. Your efforts will optimize your strength, flexibility, and mobility for the long run.

5. This Surgery Fixes Other Back Problems Too

Though surgeons often use this procedure to repair herniated discs, cervical, mid, and/or lumbar discectomy may also be used to fix:

  • brachial neuritis
  • disc bulges
  • disc tears
  • radiculitis
  • radiculopathy

If you suffer from chronic pain, ask your doctor if this minimally invasive surgery can help you. Regardless of what you need repaired, this procedure offers similar benefits to the ones discussed above.

Talk To Your Doctor Today!

Pain reduces the quality of life. If you do not want to suffer from chronic neck or back pain any longer, and open spinal surgery always sounded too risky, talk with your doctor about undergoing an endoscopic discectomy.

This minimally invasive procedure offers a faster and more complete recovery and safer surgery. You deserve your life back! Visit our website to learn the advantages of choosing us for your spinal surgery.

symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis

3 Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis You Shouldn’t Ignore

You’ve experienced a normal amount of back pain and discomfort in the spine before.

But lately, you just feel like the pain has gotten out of control. What’s more, you also don’t feel as though it’s getting any better. In fact, it just seems to be getting worse, even spreading up the spine.

You’re starting to wonder if you’re displaying the symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis.

But what exactly is AS, and what are the types of pain and additional symptoms you need to watch out for? Most of all, what are your treatment options?

Keep on reading this post to find out.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Before we get into the most prominent symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis, let’s make sure that you understand what it is.

In brief, Ankylosing Spondylitis is a chronic form of arthritis in the spine (in some cases, this arthritis can also impact other joints in your body.) It’s best defined as a continual inflammation within your vertebrae.

If left untreated — or if you simply have a more difficult case — this pain can develop into ankylosis. This means that new bone formations begin in your spine. Over time, affected portions of the spine could become immobile as a result.

In particular, the sacroiliac joints in the base of your spine, which connects it to the pelvis, are seriously affected by AS.

Unfortunately, the causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis aren’t fully known.

Many professionals believe that cases of AS are caused by genetics. If your body produces the protein HLA-B27, you’re more likely to get AS. However having this genetic marker is not a requirement, nor is it a guarantee that you’ll get AS.

There are also hypotheses that see a connection between prolonged bacterial infections and AS.

Finally, it’s important to note that AS happens more frequently — and begins earlier in life — to men.

Now, let’s take a look at the most common AS symptoms.

1. Intense Pain

First, it’s important to stress that Ankylosing Spondylitis pain is vastly different from your random, or even more frequent, back pain.

It’s not something that happens as a result of moving heavy boxes, straining yourself, or any other easily explainable activity. It’s also much more intense and disruptive than more common back pains.

The pain will often start in your lower back and even the buttocks. It may start off somewhat manageable — and many people assume it will go away on its own.

You may soon notice that the pain even seems to be alternating sides, when in the past you only felt discomfort on one side.

The pain eventually becomes chronic. It likely even begins to spread all the way up to your neck. In some cases, you even feel it in your heels.

Resting also won’t help the pain — in fact, it may even make it worse. However, you do notice that, when you move around, you get at least a temporary relief from this pain.

2. Poor Posture

Poor posture certainly isn’t uncommon in today’s world. After all, we spend much of our time hunched over smartphones or on the computer.

But continued poor posture — even after an attempt to make a correction — is one of the surprising symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis. You may notice that you just can’t seem to improve your bent-over, hunched posture.

In some cases, the opposite may even be true.

Have you noticed that your spine’s normal curvature seems to be disappearing? While at first, you might have thought your posture was improving, now, your spine feels almost too straight.

You often feel sensations of stiffness, and though you long to stretch and move your spine, it just feels impossible.

You’ve even noticed that your posture makes it hard for you to take deep, calming breaths. And when you can, it’s extremely painful.

Sudden changes in your posture are one of the most common early signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis. See a medical professional as soon as you can.

3. Eye Pain and Strain

You’ve always had excellent eyesight.

You’ve never had to strain to read signs or emails at your computer, and you’ve never worn glasses or contact lenses.

But lately, that’s all seemed to change. You notice that your eyes are much more sensitive to light than they’ve been in the past. In fact, if you enter into a room that’s too bright, you eventually start getting a headache.

Sometimes, those headaches can be quite severe.

Additionally, you’ve realized that your eyes have been much redder than normal in the past few months. You’ve noticed that, after reading or even going about your normal activities, you experience eye pain.

Your eyes even seem to be swelling up, and you’re dealing with watery eyes more frequently than ever before.

This is one of the symptoms of AS — not an issue with your eyesight as a whole.

Treating the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

We know that recognizing some of the symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis in yourself can be quite intimidating.

If you suspect that you may have AS, then it’s important to meet with a medical professional as soon as you can. They’ll conduct imaging tests, like MRIs and x-rays, and they’ll even examine how well you’re able to move your spine.

In some cases, you may be prescribed NSAIDs for pain management. You may also be but on TNF blockers to reduce swelling in the joints.

You may also need physical therapy. In some cases, you might consider surgery.

No matter what your AS treatment options are, we want to help you get the best care available. Spend some time on our website to learn how we can help, and reach out to us to book your appointment.