Spinal cord injuries can often include a diagnosis of a herniated disc
You’ve probably heard it called a “slipped disc” or a “ruptured disc” but it is medically referred to as a “herniated disc”. In the many years of our personal injury practice, a herniated disc is one of the frequent types of injuries experienced by our clients. In this article, we’ll describe what it is, its causes, and its treatment.
The spine’s anatomy
You will need to understand the anatomy of the spine in order to understand the nature of a herniated disc. The spine is divided into three major divisions: cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine. Each section is made up of individual bones, called vertebrae, of which you have thirty-three. The spinal column consists of soft, rubbery pads called “discs” that are located in between each of the vertebrae (bones) of your neck and back. They are made up of an outside ring of cartilage, with the center filled with a gel-like substance called the “nucleus”.
The spinal cord, about 18” long, resides within the center of the spinal column, and along with other spinal nerves, act as telephone lines, carrying messages back and forth between your body and spinal cord to control sensation and movement.
Discs, acting like shock absorbers, allow your body to bend and flex.
Definition of a herniated disc
A herniated disc occurs when something causes the center nucleus to push past the outer edge of the disc and back towards the spinal canal. If it presses on nearby nerves, the herniated disc can cause severe pain.
What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?
Many people experience neck and back pain, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a herniated disc. Symptoms of a herniated disc can include the following:
Weakness in one or both arms or legs
Arm or leg pain, or tingling, or numbness in one or both arms, legs and/or buttocks
Loss of bladder or bowel control
A burning sensation in the neck, shoulders or arms.
What are the causes of a herniated disc?
A person can experience a herniated disc by lifting something improperly, lifting something too heavy, smoking, and repetitive activities that are too strenuous. However, most herniated discs are caused by age-related wear and tear called disc degeneration. As you age, your discs become less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist.
When it comes to motor vehicle accidents, it is not uncommon for the victim to suffer from a herniated disc because the sudden jerking movement that frequently occurs in a car crash can put too much stress on the spinal column and cause the disc to rupture.
How to treat a herniated disc
There are both non-surgical and surgical treatments for a herniated disc. Non-surgical treatment is usually very effective and can include rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxers, and a combination of ice and heat. A doctor may also prescribe physical therapy and/or cortisone injections.
Surgical intervention may be needed when a part of the nucleus presses on the nerve(s) in the spinal canal, which can cause not only severe pain, but also loss of function.
If you experience sharp pain or numbness in your back, legs, hands or feet after a car wreck, you should seek immediate medical treatment. If left untreated, the injury could develop into a serious spinal injury that could lead to chronic pain and life-long disability.
If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please call us so we can discuss your case. All consultations are free.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions related to personal injury law, please call us at 920-725-8464, or toll free at 1-800-529-1552. Our personal injury consultations are always free.
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