What Should You Know About a Herniated Disc Injury If You Have Been in an Auto Accident in Georgia?
Some of the most common injuries we see in Georgia car accidents are neck and back injuries. Although, in general, this type of injury is called whiplash, there are varying degrees of whiplash. The most serious type of whiplash is a herniated disc.
This can occur from an auto accident or work accident. In both situations, you may be entitled to compensation. If the auto accident was not your fault, you may have a case against the other driver for compensation. If you were hurt on the job, you may be able to receive worker’s compensation benefits.
What is a Herniated Disc?
Your spine consists of vertebrae that are separated by a sponge-like substance called a disc. When a disc in your spine ruptures, this is known as a herniated disc. Herniated discs can be in your neck or upper back (cervical), middle back (thoracic), or lower back (lumbar).
What Causes a Herniated Disc?
When the herniated disc ruptures and pushes out, the nerves may become pinched. A herniated disc may occur suddenly in an event such as a fall, an auto accident, a work-related accident, or may occur gradually with repetitive straining of the spine. Each vertebra of your spine is protected by a spinal disc that gives the vertebrae a soft cushion, as it were, and protects the vertebrae. As you get older, those discs lose their elasticity and softness and become more prone to injury, such as a disc rupture.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
The symptoms of a herniated disc depend on where on the spine the disc herniation occurs and whether or not nerve tissue is being irritated. A disc herniation may not cause any symptoms. However, disc herniation can cause pain where the spine was injured. If the disc herniation is large enough, the disc tissue can press on the adjacent spinal nerves that exit the spine at the level of the disc herniation. This can cause shooting pain in the distribution of that nerve and usually occurs on one side of the body.
- Tingling and Numbness in Fingers, Toes, or Other
- Electric Shock Pain – Pressure on the nerve can cause abnormal sensations, such as electric shock pains. When the compression occurs in the neck region, the shocks go down your arms, when the compression is in the lower back region, the shocks go down your legs.
- Muscle Weakness – because of the nerve irritation, signals from the brain may be interrupted causing muscle weakness. Nerve irritation can also be tested by examining reflexes.
- Bowel or Bladder Problems (This is a medical emergency) – These symptoms are important because it may be a sign of Cauda Equine Syndrome, a possible condition resulting from a herniated disc. This is a medical emergency and you should see your doctor immediately if you have problems urinating, having bowel movements, or if you have numbness around your genitals.
How is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?
The doctor will suspect a herniated disc when symptoms described above are present. A neurological examination can reveal abnormal reflexes. Often pain can be evoked when the straight leg is lifted while lying down or sitting. This is commonly referred to as a “positive straight leg raising test.” There can be abnormal sensation in the leg or foot.
A variety of blood tests are frequently done to determine if there are signs of inflammation or infection.
X-rays can indicate degeneration of the spine, but they do not show the position or status of discs. In order to determine whether or not a disc is herniated, an MRI scan or CT scan is performed for diagnosis.
An EMG, or electromyogram, can be used to document exactly which nerves are being irritated by a disc herniation.
How Do You Treat a Herniated Disc?
Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatments for a herniated disc include:
• Physical therapy
• Muscle relaxant medications
• Pain medications
• Anti-inflammatory medicine
• Local injection of cortisone
• Surgical operations.
There are now a variety of surgical approaches to treat disc herniation. Each type of operation is customized to the individual situation and depends a great deal on the condition of the spine around the irritated disc. Surgical options include:
• Microdiscectomy – using small surgical instruments
• Open surgical repair (either from a posterior or anterior approach).
An urgent operation may become necessary when Cauda Equine Syndrome is present.
Frequently Asked Question: Why Won’t The Insurance Company Say My Herniated Disc is From My Auto Accident?