Injury to the discs in the spine after a serious accident is common. Disc injury can have many names, “herniated disc”, “bulging disc”, “pinched nerve”, “ruptured disc”, “torn disc”, “slipped disc”, “disc protrusion”, etc. It is also common that symptoms of a disc injury after an accident may not show up immediately after the accident.
What is a disc?
A disc is a donut shaped enclosed hydraulic system that acts like a shock absorber and allows for moment of the spine. There is a disc between each of the spinal vertebra (the bones that make up the backbone or spine.) There are 23 discs in the human body: 6 in the neck or cervical region, 12 in the middle back or thoracic region, and 5 in the low back or lumbar region. A disc has two basic parts: the jelly-like nucleus pulposus in the center of the disc and the strong fibrous capsule-like annulus whose job is to contain or hold the nucleus in.
What is a herniated disc?
In a serious accident, jarring forces on the spine can occur in such a way as to rupture or tear the strong fibrous outer capsule allowing the softer inside nucleus to escape and bulge out. When this occurs the spinal nerves can be “pinched” (known as radiculopathy) or pressed upon causing severe pain, numbness, and/or weakness radiating down the area that the particular nerve goes to or innervates.
What are the common symptoms of a ruptured disc?
The most common symptoms of disc protrusion pressing upon a nerve are severe pain that many people describe as an “electric shock-like” pain, numbness and a tingling sensation. Muscle weakness can also occur. If the disc causing the problem is in the neck, the symptoms will go, radiate, down the arm. If the injured disc is in the low back, the symptoms will go or radiate down a leg.
How is disc injury diagnosed and treated?
Disc herniation is diagnosed by physical exam by a health care practitioner and radiologic testing such as an MRI. Treatment options vary from rest to surgery, depending on the severity of the disc injury.
What is the best thing to do if you think you have injured your disc?
If you think you may have a disc injury due to an accident, it is important that you report it to your health care practitioner right away, do not “tough it out” hoping it will just go away. This is important information to have documented in your medical records for insurance compensation purposes. It is also important to seek diagnosis and treatment in order to avoid long term complications such as chronic pain, muscle weakness, or paralysis.
Hello, I am Jeffrey Meldon. As an accident attorney, I strongly believe that public education is the first step in the prevention of an accident or in the recovery from one.
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