Car collisions can cause serious injuries to people’s backs and spines. One of the injuries we see with regularity is a herniated disc.
The Basics of a Disc Herniation
To understand the injury first there is the basic anatomy of the spine. It is composed of 24 bones called vertebrae separated by the soft cartilage discs. The spinal cord runs in the middle of all this. Various nerves exit the spinal cord and conduct the signals from the brain to our arms and legs. The discs are flexible and serve as a type of shock absorbers when the spine is subject to impacts like when you are running. The discs are flat, round, and about a half inch thick. There are two parts to the discs: a tough, flexible outer ring and a soft jelly-like center. Discs are often described as a “like a jelly donut.”
When the outer part of a disc tears and the center jelly like substance (called the nucleous pulposa) oozes out you have a disc herniation. People refer to this injury at times as a “slipped disc.” Some disc herniations don’t cause the injured person a problem, others can be very serious. The cause of the problems tends to be that the jelly like material coming out of the herniated disc interfering with the normal transmission of signals along the nerves of the spinal cord. It can happen constantly or may occur more episodically over time or after physical exertion.
Car Accidents Can Cause Disc Herniations
Unsurprisingly medical journals recognize that a herniation often arises from a sudden violent motion of the spine. For example, you could look at Lumbar Disc Herniation Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment, Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, 2007. That article specifically notes that car wrecks cause disc herniations. It doesn’t take much to understand how the impacts of a car collision can cause a person’s spine to be subject to a sudden and violent motion.
Symptoms of Disc Herniations
When a disc herniates there is a variety of common symptoms that the injured people experience. For low back discs often low back pain is the initial symptom. It may start immediately at the time of the collision or not manifest for some days while. The pain may last for a few days and improve. It may, and often is, followed some days or weeks later by leg pain, numbness, or weakness. Sometimes those symptoms appear quickly as well. Often the leg symptoms extend below the knee, and even into the ankle or foot. The person experiencing it will often describe it as moving from the back into the buttock and then down the leg into the foot. The leg and foot pain is frequently referred to as “sciatica” (sigh-at- i- ka). Other symptoms can include either numbness, weakness or tingling (a “pins and needles” sensation) in the leg and/or foot.
If it is an upper back, or cervical disc, neck pain, shoulder pain or headaches may be the initial symptoms. This can then be followed by pain radiating into the arm and hand. The nerves in the spine
In the lower back injury, leg weakness can be severe enough to impact the person’s ability to stand or walk normally. Like the other symptoms the leg weakness can occur intermittently.
A less frequent but more impacting symptom is a loss of bladder or bowel control. If the herniation is large enough to press on and compress several nerves along the spinal cord that loss of control can occur. These are particularly serious symptoms and emergency medical attention is called for. Related symptoms of a large herniation includes decreased sensation within the groin or even rectal pain.
The problems associated with a herniated disc in the lower back can be a lifelong. They can and do arise from collisions—even so called “minor impact” collisions.
If you have been incurred in a car accident and start to have these types of symptoms you should seek medical care. Sometimes, even most of the time, the problems associated with a herniated disc can be managed through physical therapy or relatively minor medical interventions like injections, However, many herniated disc require surgical intervention to clean up and “decompress” the nerve. They can even require spinal fusion surgeries.
Get a Good Injury Attorney For A Back Injury From a Car Crash
The auto insurance industry has worked hard to have our society think that back and neck complaints after “minor impact” car accident can’t be very serious. The reality is that car accidents represent a large percentage of serious back injury cases. If you have or suspect a back injury from a car crash you should get the best Idaho personal injury lawyer available to help you. We have seen spinal injuries and back problems from auto crashes lead to chronic pain and even an inability to work.
And one thing that makes spinal injury case even more complex is that fact that as humans our backs, discs and vertebrae change over time. The insurance companies, their lawyers and hired-gun doctors are forever trying to blame the injured person for the back problems and symptoms that came about because of a crash. Our experience has taught us that spinal injury claims should only be handled by attorneys like us who limit their practice to personal injury cases. General practitioners for the most part have neither the experience or the ability to deal with the physicians that is necessary in these cases.
While there are times when spinal injury cases are simple, often they are far more complex then they seem at first glance.
We are always happy to consult with you for free. Just call us at (208) 890-3118.