A bulging disc is a piece of cartilage in the back that is protruding either backward or to the side, commonly after an injury, perhaps a fall or after a car accident or a motorcycle accident. The lower back is a common site for this injury, but the neck can also be an area involved, especially in whiplash injuries. The normally smooth S-curve of the lower back makes this area particularly vulnerable, especially in deceleration injuries, such as occur in car accidents, in particular. Wearing a seat belt may not prevent this injury, since the spine is typically flexed forward, pivoting on the belt, creating abnormal forces for the lower spine to endure. This injury may also be called a slipped disc.
The cartilage acts as a shock absorber for the bones of the spine that are stacked one over the other, and held together with ligaments and little joints between projections on the bones. Without these little discs, the spine would always be rigid. The ability to flex and extend the spine is integral to nearly every physical activity of humans. These discs facilitate bending, reaching, throwing, running, diving, climbing, and a host of other movements that we depend upon for a healthy living.
Bulging Disc Symptoms
When one or more of these discs slides out of place, there is typically severe pain and resultant immobility of the back. If bed rest and mild analgesics fix the problem, as they often will, then it is most likely a simple muscle strain, and not a slipped disc. If, on the other hand, nothing conservative seems to fix the problem, or there is evidence of nerve-impingement or pressure, then the disc is the likely culprit. Often, patients with a bulging disc will have symptoms in their leg or foot, such as shooting pains, tingling or areas of numbness, maybe even weakness of the leg or ankle/foot.
Bulging Disc Treatment
The most likely first step in making a correct diagnosis is to obtain side and front X-rays of the back, to see if the bones are OK. To get a good look at the discs, however, usually means getting an MRI, which lights them up nicely. If there is no nerve injury, then, sometimes, the disc is simply left alone. Usually, the pain will diminish, and, if the patient is careful, it may well stay put, although not in its ideal, normal position. But the patient can often function rather normally, even with this defect. Physical therapy techniques, such as progressive exercises, heat treatments, and ultrasound are usually very helpful. In a majority of cases, surgery is required to partially or completely remove the disc. A rather new invention is a soft, plastic, flexible disc-substitute, which is inserted directly into space from which the disc was removed. Early evaluations of this technique are encouraging, since these artificial discs appear to permit normal movement, as well as quick healing of the back. Bulging disc surgery is one of those areas of medicine where relief of symptoms is obvious very early, and this is gratifying for both the physicians and patients. A period of extreme caution after surgery is usually warranted, and yields great dividends.
Contact a Lawyer About Bulging Disc Injury
If you have suffered a bulging disc injury as a result of a car accident, or negligence of others, Parker Scheer recommends that you consult with a personal injury lawyer and evaluate your case. For your free confidential case review click here and receive a response from one of our attorneys within hours. If you prefer, you can also telephone our offices in Boston seven days a week at toll-free.