Herniated Discs in Car Accidents
Car accidents generally have the unfortunate effect of hurting those involved, even the people not at fault for the collision. The force from two vehicles colliding is more than bodies are meant to handle. It often leads to head, neck, and back injuries because of the sudden deceleration – the body lags behind as the car stops and then is slammed forward, hitting the seatbelt, airbag, steering wheel, or windshield.
If you were hurt in a car accident, contact a Chicago personal injury attorney right away to learn your rights.
Basics of the Spine
There are 33 vertebrae that interlock with discs separating them to make up your spine. These are separated into five regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccyx.
The cervical region is the very top of your spine that begins in your neck and is seven vertebrae long. The thoracic portion is the longest with 12 vertebra starting at the bottom of your neck and reaching toward mid back. Your lumbar region is probably the most recognizable as people often talk about needing lower back or lumbar support. There are five lumbar vertebrae before you reach the sacral portion, which is also five vertebrae long. The coccyx is also known as the tailbone and is actually four bones fused together. The sacral region and the coccyx are not moveable like the regions above.
The consequences of a spinal injury, whether it’s a broken vertebra or a herniated disk, will depend on where the injury is located. Herniated discs in the cervical region, or neck, can cause muscle pain in the arms, shoulders, and upper back. Herniated discs are common in the lumbar region, or lower back, and these can cause pain in the buttocks, legs, and feet.
What You Need to Know About Discs
The spine is cushioned and protected by intervertebral discs. Many people describe the design of these discs like a tire or a donut. The outer ring, known as the annulus, is made up of tough fibrous bands that attach to the vertebrae above and below. The interior of the disk, like the center of the donut or the tube of the tire, is a gel fluid called the nucleus.
The discs allow for the mobility of the spine and protect the hard vertebrae for pressing together. Overtime, discs lose fluid and become more brittle, offering less cushion between the vertebrae. This is why the elderly get shorter and people often have more back problems as they get older.
A herniated disc occurs when the soft gel interior of the disc is pushed out through a crack in the tough outer band. This gel can go so far as to push against nerves, causing mild to severe pain and other complications.
Discs take a lot of abuse, and various factors including traumatic forces like a car accident, can cause a herniated disc. This injury is also commonly known as a bulging or slipped disc. Herniated discs can be a minor injury that people aren’t even aware of, but they can also be a severe injury when they cause serious nerve issues.
A herniated disc in the neck can cause neck, arm, shoulder, and upper back pain as well as weakness and numbness. The pain may suddenly worsen when you cough or sneeze.
A bulging disk in the back can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. There can be discomfort due to the disc and pain due to a pinched nerve. Depending on the nerve that the herniated disk presses on, there can be more severe complications such as bladder or bowel dysfunction and saddle anesthesia, where you lose sensation in areas that would touch a saddle like the back of the legs and inner thighs.
Treating Herniated Discs
A physician will likely conduct an MRI to see if you have a herniated disc and the extent of the herniation. He or she will also test your reflexes, range of motion, ability to walk, muscle strength, and level of sensation.
Minor herniated discs are often treated with rest and over-the-counter pain medications. Moderate to serious injuries may require nerve pain medications, narcotic pain killers, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy.
Severe bulging discs require surgical intervention. A physician often removes part of the disk to reduce herniation and take pressure off any affected nerves. In more extreme cases, the disc must be removed entirely and vertebrae are fused together.
Contact a Chicago Car Accident Attorney
Bulging discs, even if they appear to be a minor injury at first, need to be addressed by a physician. This means time in the hospital, an MRI, and other medical tests. If you have a more severe herniation, you may be in extreme pain and unable to work. If your bladder or bowels are affected, you need to have surgery right away. Recovery from surgery varies. Symptoms can persist for months, and you may be unable to work for a while.
All of these medical procedures and time away from work cost a significant amount of money and the party at fault should be held responsible.
If you’re dealing with a painful herniated disc following a car accident, you should call an experienced personal injury lawyer. He or she can help you with the insurance claims process and filing suit, if a lawsuit is necessary to pay for your injuries. In a lawsuit, you have the potential to recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. To receive a free legal case evaluation, contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900.