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How To Diagnose And Treat Torn Discs

Torn discs, also referred to as herniated, ruptured or bulging discs, occur because of a tear in the annulus fibrosus, or outer wall of the disc. Annular tears can result from years of wear and tear as well as natural degeneration, otherwise known as degenerative disc disease. When an annular tear forms, the outer wall of the disc is torn. This allows the inner jelly-like material or nucleus to spill out of its normal space and affect surrounding structures. This nucleic material is an irritant to other soft tissues. If severely herniated, this nucleic material may press on nearby nerves causing a number of neurological symptoms.

Deuk Spine Institute works with patients with torn discs and will do a free review of their MRI, perform a physical exam, and provide treatment options. 

What are torn discs?

When the annulus fibrosus, the outer wall of a spinal disc, is injured and tears, a torn disc occurs. The nucleus pulposus, the gelatinous inner core of the disc, squeezes into the spinal canal through this opening and affects the surrounding structure. This nucleic material is an irritant to other soft tissues. If severely herniated, this nucleic material may press on nearby nerves causing several neurological symptoms. Patients may experience severe pain and suffering as a result of this condition.

How torn discs occur in the spine

The human spinal column is made up of 33 vertebral bones. Approximately 22 of these bones are separated by discs. Intervertebral discs cushion and preserve the vertebrae, absorb stress, and help distribute weight evenly in the back. The nucleus, or the inner portion of the disc, is constructed of a soft, gelatinous fluid. The annulus fibrous, or outside area, is made of connective fibers arranged in a criss-cross pattern to provide support.

When healthy, these elastic discs allow people to engage in a variety of physical activities. Long periods of sitting or standing can cause compressional strains in the spine. The spinal discs keep the vertebrae from colliding with one another during low-intensity exercise or activities. They are not, however, impervious to harm.

Normal aging causes the discs in the spine to dry up. Similar to dry skin, the annulus becomes more vulnerable to harm. Furthermore, whenever the body is exposed to high-impact activity, trauma, or severe motions, additional pressure is created in the spine, which can cause the disc to wear out more quickly. Due to the increased strain, the discs will begin to degrade, losing moisture and flexibility, culminating in fractures and tears.

The gel-like core within the disc will surge to the outside if cracks appear in the disc's tough external tissue. If the pressure on the disc is strong enough, the annulus can fully tear open, discharging disc fluid into the intervertebral space.

Causes of torn discs

Torn discs are a natural consequence of wear and tear in the spine as humans age. Another leading cause of this condition is a severe injury.

Other factors that can lead to torn spinal discs are listed below;

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

Untreated disc inflammation can lead to degenerative disc disease. The pain in your back from degenerative disc disease comes from irritated (inflamed) nerve fibers within the nearby annular tear.

Degenerative Disc Disease involves a variety of structural, biochemical, nutritional and molecular changes that occur in the spinal disc over time or following an initial injury to the intervertebral spinal disc in your spine. Degenerative disc disease is a common cause of back pain and neck pain (discogenic pain), sciatica and radiculopathy

Osteophytes

Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes, are calcified, hard lumps of additional bone that develop on the ends of spinal bones or surrounding joints. They frequently occur near joints damaged by osteoarthritis, a disorder that causes painful and stiff joints. Bone spurs can also form when adjacent cartilage or tendons are inflamed or injured. Osteophytes can sprout from any bone, but they're most common in the neck, shoulders, knees, lower back, fingers, foot, and heels, where cartilage has degraded. Bone spurs are also common around degenerative discs in the spine.

Bone spurs are the body's natural means of redistributing weight over a greater surface, cushioning the bone. They also decrease the range of motion, inhibiting activities that could create bony stress. The majority of bone spurs do not create any complications. Patients will only develop symptoms like pain and stiffness if the outgrowths rub against other bones or irritate surrounding nerves.

Spinal Injuries

Spinal injuries are common. Around 80% of adults will sustain a spinal injury at some point in their lives, whether due to everyday activities or unforeseen events.

These injuries could have long-term consequences. Chronic pain and discomfort are among them.

A spinal injury occurs when one or more structures that support the spine are damaged by an unforeseeable accident or persistent degeneration. These structures include the spinal vertebrae, spinal cord, spinal nerves, intervertebral discs, and supporting tissues such as muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Symptoms of torn discs

Minor disc tears can be unnoticed for quite some time. In contrast, engaging in activities that place a lot of stress or pressure on the back or neck may aggravate a minor tear, resulting in severe lower back pain, neck pain, and limb and shoulder discomfort. Major tears can be quite distressing due to the enormous amount of nerve fibers present. Symptoms may also appear if an annular tear causes the spinal disc to herniate, pressing against nerves in the spinal column.

Depending on where the damaged disc is located, patients will have varied symptoms.

Cervical torn disc symptoms

A ruptured disc in the cervical spine causes neck pain, numbness, arm weakness, loss of motion in the neck, and muscular spasms.

Lumbar torn disc symptoms

One of the principal nerves impacted by a damaged disc in the lumbar region is the sciatic nerve. Compression of the sciatic nerve caused by a damaged disc can cause sciatic pain that radiates down the buttock and leg. Other symptoms include leg, thigh, groin, and hip weakness, loss of feeling, and intense pain in the legs, thighs, groin, and hips.

Diagnosis of torn discs

Torn discs do not generally warrant a doctor’s visit unless they cause some form of pain. Unfortunately, symptoms often present themselves after their condition has deteriorated to the point of requiring attention. Diagnosis and treatment are relatively straightforward. Using a preliminary screening of the spine’s integrity via MRI, a physician can determine whether or not the discs exhibit any form of visually identifiable deformity or damage. In conjunction with an MRI review, a doctor will perform a physical exam to identify the source of the pain. They will also identify subsequently affected areas, including the arms and legs. Get a free MRI review.

An MRI, on the other hand, will not detect all annular rips. A CT discogram may be ordered as a follow-up procedure by your doctor. A liquid dye is injected into the disc and examined on a CT scan during this operation. The dye will contrast with the disc in the final image, allowing any tears, no matter how slight, to be detected.

Treatment of torn discs

Once a torn disc has been identified as requiring treatment, we provide a variety of minimally invasive and traditional treatment options to best suit the patient’s needs. Should a torn disc require surgery, we recommend the least invasive and most successful surgery available to date, Deuk Laser Disc Repair. Our doctors can maintain the integrity of the patient’s spine by repairing the discs in their place instead of removing them or fusing the vertebrae. Deuk Laser Spine Surgery keeps the repair and healing process natural, with no bone cutting or implants. This patented technique is an outpatient procedure. Therefore many of our patients go home on the same day.

Deuk Laser Spine Surgery

Deuk Laser Disc Repair is an alternative to dangerous invasive spine surgeries like total disc replacement and spinal fusion. It is the most advanced laser surgery in the world.

This revolutionary procedure was developed by Dr. Ara Deukmedjian MD, a world renowned neuro-spine surgeon and a true pioneer in minimally invasive, laser, and endoscopic back and neck pain treatment.  

Deuk Laser Disc Repair is a form of endoscopic spine surgery performed in a state-of-the-art surgery center under sedation while the patient relaxes. This procedure does not compromise or weaken the health and integrity of the spine.

If you have a torn, herniated or bulging disc or chronic back or neck pain, submit your MRI for a free review

Here's how it works:

To get started, Deuk Laser Disc Repair requires a very small incision, less than a quarter inch long. A cylindrical rod called a dilator is inserted in the small opening to gently spread the muscle to create a small passage and guide through which the surgery is performed endoscopically. The tip of the dilator is advanced into the symptomatic disc through the tear in the annulus where the herniation originates, and a tube called the retractor slides over the dilator and is carefully positioned into the painful disc. The rest of the entire Deuk laser disc repair surgery will occur inside this narrow tube.

To access the spine, an endoscopic camera is inserted into the tubular retractor to allow the surgeon to guide the laser inside each symptomatic disc. This process ensures that bones and surrounding tissues are not damaged, unlike traditional spinal fusions, microdiscectomy

and artificial discs.

The Holmium YAG laser used in the Deuk laser disc repair is manipulated accurately with millimeter precision under endoscopic visualization to remove only painful inflammatory tissue from the back of the disc. The laser is precisely used to remove damaged disc material that is causing the pain. This process is called debridement of the annular tear and Dr. Ara Deukmedjian MD was the first in the world to use and publish this technique.

Once the laser has removed the inflamed painful part of the annular tear and the herniated nucleus pulposus, the endoscope and tubular retractor are removed, leaving less than one-quarter inch incision in the skin, which can be closed with a single stitch and a band-aid. 

The total time for the Deuk laser disc repair surgery is one hour, and the patient is in recovery for about 45 to 60 minutes before being released to go home. Hospitalization is not needed and the risks of hospital-based surgery are avoided. 

Also, with the Deuk laser disc repair, there’s no loss of normal movement, and the flexibility of the disc and joint is preserved. With endoscopic Deuk laser disc repair there is no fusion, metal implants or biological material added to the spine. The procedure is all natural allowing your body to heal the herniated or bulging disc itself.

After the surgery, the Deuk laser disc repair patient is back home, enjoying life with a speedy recovery allowing normal activities without pain. Another advantage of Deuk laser disc repair is that no opioids or powerful narcotic painkillers are needed after surgery. Open spine surgeries like microdiscectomy, laminectomy, artificial disc replacement and fusion all cause so much internal trauma that patients are in severe pain after surgery and must take painkillers for weeks after their surgery but not with Deuk laser disc repair.

Types of torn discs

Because the severity of tears in discs varies, patients with ruptured discs may or may not have symptoms. Patients seeking therapy for pain, numbness, tingling, soreness, or weakness are most likely suffering from a severe disc herniation. Many people are unaware they have a tear of the intervertebral discs until it causes discomfort and necessitates treatment.

Three common types of tears occur in the spinal discs;

Concentric tears

Concentric tears affect the disc by creating separation in the lamellae or membrane layers protecting the disc. These tears occur in a ring around the nucleus. The tear develops in the outer wall layers (annulus fibrosus) circumferentially, causing them to partially or completely detach. Torsion injuries and incorrect back bending are typical causes of concentric tearing.

Peripheral/transverse tears

Peripheral tears, while similar in orientation to concentric tears, occur on the disc's outside and are not confined to membrane layer separation. They are frequently linked to disc degeneration. Transverse tears begin at the outermost rim of the disc and can advance to the nucleus. Because the outside of the disc is heavily innervated with pain receptors, an annular tear in this zone cannot go undetected. Because this crack does not come from the inner layer, it is typically the result of an injury. However, the disease can steadily worsen the disc nucleus's condition.

Radial tears

Spanning the height of the disc and extending from the center outward, radial tears occur naturally with aging. They are the most common cause of disc herniation in patients. The tear begins in the disc's inner layer and proceeds to the outer layer. These tears can crack to the margin of the annulus fibrosus, allowing the tissue to completely separate. They do not always create symptoms because they begin near the center of the disc, where pain receptors are scarce. A herniated disc can occur if the nucleus pulposus squeezes through the outer wall of the disc.

How to prevent torn discs

The occurrence of ruptured discs is a natural component of the aging process. There are, however, several factors that increase your chances of acquiring this spine disorder. Being overweight, having a bad posture, and admitting harmful substances into your body are just a few of them. Repetitive, heavy lifting in jobs that put a lot of strain on the back can also cause torn discs.

If you've had an annular tear, you're also more likely to have another intervertebral disc tear. A second tear can happen in the same spot or somewhere completely different. The best way to avoid a recurrence is to keep your back healthy and strong, as well as to limit your risk of injury by making a few lifestyle changes. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, and strengthening your core are proven ways to protect your back and lower your chance of injury or re-injury.

At Deuk Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally invasive surgical techniques and comprehensive spine treatments to cure back and neck pain. Our world-class physicians are personally invested in the well-being of every patient. Start your treatment with us today by submitting your MRI online for a free remote review to determine your candidacy for surgery. You can also visit one of our locations in person by calling patient services at 321-255-6670.

Cure your back and neck pain once and for all.

Deuk Laser Disc Repair has patients back on their feet within an hour, feeling zero pain
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About Deuk Spine Institute
World leader in Laser Spine Surgery
With world-class physicians on staff, the newest and most advanced technology, and a patient experience pathway that is unrivaled in it’s efficiency and and pedagogy of care, Deuk Spine Institute has performed thousands of procedures and achieves a 95% success rate in elimination of pain.

 The services we offer are not offered anywhere else in the world, and the treatments are curative, not palliative.  On top of that, Dr. Deukmedjian is personally invested in the well-being of each and every patient, and has spared no expense to guarantee the best possible outcomes.
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