How Do Car Accidents Cause Herniated Discs?

Bones of the upper body, posterior view by robswatski, on FlickrThe spine is a precious and vital piece to our bodies, one that is often abused through bad posture, everyday contortions from bending or reaching, and harrowing injuries. The discs of the spine are made of rounded cushions that act as shock absorbers in between the boney vertebrae. If one or more of these discs get traumatized, their soft interior can get forced outwards and protrude against nearby nerves, causing a great deal of discomfort. In severe cases the discs themselves can rupture, leaking their cushioning fluid. Doctors have diagnosed this painful condition as herniated or “slipped” discs.

How Can a Car Accident Cause a Herniated Disc?

Automobile accidents, regardless of their severity, are the leading cause of back and neck problems in the United States. When driving, we may feel safe and secure in our bucket seats but we still remain in a vulnerable position in the event of a crash. The two most affected areas of our spines are the cervical (neck) and the lumbar (lower back) vertebrae regions. On impact, the head is lurched forward at an alarming rate of speed, stretching the lumbar region of the spine till it snaps the body back into its upright position and forces pressure on the base of the neck, acting like the tail-end of a whip being cracked. This is where the medical condition “whiplash” comes from.

The sudden trauma of a car accident can cause these cushioning discs between our vertebrae to bulge or even break open, resulting in deep pain, weakness or the most worrying symptom: complete numbness. The worst part about herniation or slippage of the vertebral discs is that the condition is difficult to diagnose in the emergency room. The discs are translucent on x-ray film and therefore do not show signs of injury as clearly as bones would. Doctors will typically check your ability to sit, stand, walk and bend both at the waist as well as the neck to gauge your mobility and pain level, but this can only raise the possibility of disc issues. An MRI is usually needed to solidly diagnose a herniated disc and a Nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) test can determine the extent of the damage done.

This condition, if left untreated, will not fix itself and will only get worse with time. It’s important to take stock of where you feel pain or numbness after an accident and report every symptomatic area to a doctor in order to facilitate a swift diagnose and treatment plan.

What Solutions are Available for Treatment?

Rest and pain medication or muscle relaxants are usually the first steps for treating herniated discs, followed by a regimen of physical therapy to regain strength and mobility. For the most part, this is all it takes for the majority of sufferers to return to their normal lives in a few weeks. In the worst cases, however, steroid injections and even surgery may be necessary to fix the problem.

It can quite often be an expensive road to recovery from a herniated or slipped disc trauma, and medical insurance isn’t guaranteed to cover everything. According to an Atlanta injury lawyer, seeking out the advice and assistance of a specialized accident attorney might be your best chance at recouping your medical treatment costs and any lost wages resulting from your injuries.