Herniated discs often are the result of car accidents, bad falls or lifting heavy objects. A normal human spine, when looked at from the side, is shaped like the letter S. It is this natural curve that helps humans to absorb daily shocks from walking, jumping and running. Spines are also very flexible, although this does decrease as we grow older. Within the spine, disks act as shock absorbers and are its most flexible element. In contrast, the bony segments are extremely rigid. Because of this, when someone is involved in an extreme situation, such as a car accident, the discs can move in relation to the bony segments, resulting in a herniated disc. When a shift such as this occurs, the disc may also impinge on nerves that exit the spine, which can affect the legs, or sometimes the bowel or bladder. After a car accident, particularly those involving a frontal collision, one’s lower spine is often flexed quite severely causing the disc to protrude backward. This causes severe back pain, and can also cause injury to nerves, which manifests itself through numbness and tingling felt in the legs. Within the leg, the areas most commonly felt are the outer thighs, back of calf and, in some cases, the big toe. In addition, ankle weakness may be experienced and reflexes can decrease. Those who have experience this compare it to an electric shock sensation.
The use of a standard X-ray is not considered to be as effective as it has been in the past. Currently, the use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging is best, and is able to clearly mark where the injury is located.
In most cases, doctors will start by trying the easiest solutions to ease the pain. First, back rest is recommended. Often anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxer, or even an injection of steroids will be used to supplement this. In addition, the use of physical therapy is a common strategy to help strengthen back muscles and give the spine stability. If none of these tactics prove effective, surgery is considered. an strengthen the back muscles, which helps to stabilize the spine. In easier cases, only a “band-aid” surgery is required. For this procedure, a small incision is made directly over the disc, and a lit scope is inserted. Then, part of the disc is removed. When the case involves an older patient, open surgery is necessary. Parts of the discs are also removed in order to prevent the injury from recurring. There are also other cases where the full removal of the disc occurs and a “fusion” is used to stabilize the bones afterwards. Recently, new developments have led to the use of artificial discs, which are made of a spongy and flexible plastic. These are put in place of the removed disc, and provide the same shock absorption of the original.
Recovery and Complications
After being discharged, many patients wear a back brace or other form of support for weeks. Avoiding lifting anything is necessary until healing is completed. Pain and tingling can last after the procedure, especially when the disc has been removed in its entirety. In some cases, follow-up surgery is later required to remove more of the disc. Cauda Equina is a severe result of a major herniation, and occurs when the disc affects bowel, bladder and genital nerves. When this occurs surgery must be performed very quickly. Otherwise, these organs can be permanently damages. Delays diagnosing these nerve injuries result in a high-risk of a long-term disability as a nerve that is compressed for too long often leads to irreparable damage.
Contact a Lawyer About Your Herniated Disc Injury
If you have suffered a herniated 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 .
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