What Is A Herniated Disc?
The gravitational forces that come along with a car crash can cause the spinal cord to misalign, which can put you at risk for a bulging disc or worse; a herniated disc.
These injuries result from both high speed and low-speed collisions and can range from minor to sometimes life-threatening.
Bulging discs and herniated discs, also referred to as slipped discs, are also seen in people who have been a victim of a slip and fall accident.
What is a bulging disc?
There is a gel-filled disk between each vertebra that acts as a shock absorber helping the spine to move. A bulging disc occurs when a damaged disc compacts and pushes backward into the spinal canal. A bulging disc usually bulges toward one side of the canal making it more likely to have pain and tingling on just one side of the body.
In some cases, a bulging disc is relatively painless. On the other hand, it can cause severe pain in your neck, shoulders, chest, and arms. You may experience numbness or weakness in your arms or fingers.
A bulging disc can eventually become a herniated disk.
Causes of bulging discs
Strain or injury
Bulging disc treatment options
There are various ways to treat a bulging disc:
Rest and medications
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen
Physical therapy to relieve pressure on the nerve
It is estimated that roughly ten percent of people with bulging disks will require surgery.
What is a herniated disc (slipped disc)
A slipped disc can occur in any part of your spine, but the most common area is the lower back.
Each disc has a gelatinous inner portion and a tough outer ring. An injury can cause the outer ring to become weak or even tear, allowing the inner portion to slip out resulting in a slipped disc.
A disc can slip out of place just from twisting to lift a heavy object. You may experience numbness and pain along the affected nerve if the slipped disk compresses one of your spinal nerves. Surgery may be required to remove or repair the slipped disc.
Who is at risk?
As we get older, we are more likely to experience a slipped disc because our discs begin to lose some of their protective water content. This would cause them to slip out of place more easily.
Being overweight puts you at an increased risk of experiencing a slipped disc because your discs must support the additional weight. An inactive lifestyle and weak muscles may also contribute to the development of a slipped disc.
Symptoms of a Herniated/slipped disc
Pain and numbness
Pain extending to your arms or legs
Pain which worsens at night
Pain when walking short distances
Pain the worsens after standing or sitting
Unexplained muscle weakness
Tingling, aching, or burning sensations in the affected area
It is also possible to have a herniated disc with no symptoms.
Surgical procedures for treating herniated discs include:
Laminectomy- The removal of the back surface of a vertebra (the lamina), which enlarges the spinal canal to alleviate pressure on spinal nerves.
Laminotomy- Partial removal of the lamina.
Discectomy- The removal of the damaged portion of a disc, generally recommended only when patients have significant nerve-related weakness or pain that spreads to the legs, arms, buttocks, or chest.
Spinal fusion- A surgeon may fuse two vertebrae to provide stability after removing a disc.
Complications of a slipped disc
If a severe slipped disc is left untreated, it can lead to permanent nerve damage. A slipped disc can cut off the nerve impulses to the cauda equine nerves in your lower back and legs in very rare cases, result in loss of bowel or bladder control.
Saddle anesthesia is another long-term complication associated with a slipped disc. If this happens, the slipped disc compresses nerves resulting in the loss of sensation to your inner thighs, the back of your legs, and around your rectum.
Complications such as infection, worsening of pain, and nerve damage may arise during spinal surgery. Spinal surgery can also cause significant bleeding; dangerous clots may form in the veins of the leg as the body attempts to stop the loss of blood.
Spinal fusion surgery may come with specific complications. The metal hardware connected to the vertebrae may detach which would require additional surgery. The bone graft may fail and cause the vertebrae to shift out of position.
How are slipped discs treated?
The treatment will depend on the level of discomfort it is causing you and how far the disc has slipped out of place.
In many cases, people can relieve pain by stretching and using an exercise program that will strengthen the back and surrounding muscles.
Over the counter pain relievers may also help. If your pain does not respond to over the counter treatments, you may be prescribed stronger medications or muscle relaxers to relieve muscle spasms.
Don’t stop all physical activity. You may worsen your condition if you refrain from all physical activity because your muscles will begin to weaken and you could experience joint stiffness. Continue to do low-impact activities and stretch as much as possible.
If after six weeks you are still in pain and the slipped disc is affecting your muscle function, you may require a microdiscectomy to remove the damaged portion of the disk without having to remove the entire disc.
In severe cases, the disc may be replaced with an artificial disk. The other option is to remove the disc and fuse the vertebra together to add stability to your spinal column.
Recovery from surgery
Recovery may require three days of staying hospitalized. The patient should be able to return to your normal activities in a few weeks.
If the patient has both a laminectomy and spinal fusion, it is often recommended not to return to normal activities for up to six months after surgery.
Part of the recovery process may include physical therapy to build strength in the lower back and to prevent muscle loss in the legs from inactivity.
Sadly, many patients will have returning pain with the natural weakening of the spine that occurs with age even after surgery was successful at alleviating pain.
Reduce your risk for herniated discs
Although it is impossible to prevent a slipped disc, you can reduce your risk of developing a slipped risk by taking these steps:
Use safe lifting techniques such as bending and lifting from your knees, not your waist.
Maintain a healthy weight to avoid more pressure on the spine and discs.
Maintain good posture to reduce the pressure on your spine.
If you sit most of the day, get up and stretch periodically.
Exercise to strengthen the muscles in your back, legs, and abdomen.
The importance of contacting an attorney
Right after a collision or a severe slip and fall, many victims are charged with adrenaline masking the symptoms of serious injuries. It can take several hours and even days for your body to recover from the initial shock. It is crucial that you seek medical treatment right away. If there is a gap in medical treatment, the insurance company will have a reason to try and refuse payment.
It is in your best interest to seek legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney who will be able to guide you in taking the next steps towards your recovery. A personal injury attorney will be able to take the stress away from you of dealing with the insurance companies and fight for the compensation you deserve for your injuries, pain, suffering, lost wages and other losses.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
Here at The Carlson Law Firm, we understand that if you have suffered a herniated disc, you may be in a lot of pain and may be feeling drained mentally and financially. We have attorneys, nurses, and investigators who specialize in not only helping you physically but helping to prove negligence as well. Our goal is to get you the best result possible.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. We care, we can help.
- Written by Adriana Torres