It is not uncommon for people injured in car accidents to suffer from herniated discs, which are spinal injuries that can cause serious pain. The force of impact in a car accident can put immense pressure on your spine. While the discs between vertebrae need to be strong to both protect your spineand allow it to move, the forces in a car accident can cause these discs to move out of place or tear.

Spinal discs are like little pillows thatare set between each vertebra in your spine. These discs are very important because they help absorb shock as you move about in your everyday life. It might help to think about spinal discs like jelly doughnuts, since they have a shell-type barrier that covers a liquid substance. Physical trauma, like the kind suffered during a car accident, can cause the disc to rupture and let the “jelly” ooze out of it. At this point, it is not uncommon for the disc to shift and hit a nerve in the spinal column. This is called a herniated disc, and the more pressure it puts on a spinal nerve, the more painful it is.

A bulging disc occurs when the disc’s tough outer layer of cartilage bulges out from between the vertebrae. A bulging disc can affect much of the disk, but may cause no pain.

A herniated disc occurs when the tough cartilage cracks, and the soft inner filling of the disc protrudes through the tear. A herniated disc will likely affect a smaller area, but is often more painful.

Both a budge or a herniation can cause pain and problems. Different doctors (and lawyers) have their own opinions about which one is a more serious injury. However, both can have serious consequences for car accident victims.

Both a bulging and a herniated disc can protrude far enough into the spinal canal to irritate sensitive nerve roots, causing inflammation and compression of the nerves and the spinal cord. Not only does this cause back pain, but the pain also often radiates down the leg. Some people experience other, more debilitating symptoms such as weakness and loss of sensation in lower extremities.

There are several herniated disc treatment options that may relieve your symptoms. These include non-surgical treatments such as: alternate bed rest with ambulation and medications to reduce inflammation and pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used for this purpose.

Physical therapy may be incorporated into the patient’s treatment plan. This might include exercise, massage, thermotherapy, as well as a device designed to support the back—a corset, back belt, or brace.

When no improvement is noted after a course of conservative treatment, surgery might be considered.

A discectomy is the surgical removal of part or the entire offending intervertebral disc.

No matter which herniated disc treatments you try, it is important to closely follow the instructions of your physician and/or physical therapist. Keep your weight close to ideal and continue to follow the exercise and/or rehabilitative program designed by your physical therapist at home. These steps may help you prevent further pain associated with a herniated disc.

Your doctor knows your case best. He or she will be able to recommend a made-for-you herniated disc treatment plan. It will take into account your overall health, other conditions you may have, your current level of physical activity, your lifestyle, and your symptoms.

© 2019 Chelsie M. Lamie, P.A.



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