One of the more common injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash or a fall, is a herniated disc. Disks are soft, rubbery pads found between the hard bones (vertebrae) that make up our spinal column. The spinal canal is a hollow space in the middle of the spinal column that contains the spinal cord and other nerve roots. The disks between the vertebrae allow the neck and back to flex or bend. Disks also act as shock absorbers.
Disks are composed of a thick outer ring of cartilage (annulus) and an inner gel-like substance (nucleus). A disk herniates or ruptures when part of the center nucleus pushes through the outer edge of the disk and back toward the spinal canal. This puts pressure on the nerves. Spinal nerves are very sensitive to even slight amounts of pressure, which can result in pain, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs.
The most common symptom of a herniated disk in the lower back is sciatica—a sharp, often shooting pain that extends from the buttocks down the back of one leg. It is caused by pressure on the spinal nerve. Other symptoms include:
- Weakness in one leg
- Tingling (a “pins-and-needles” sensation) or numbness in one leg or buttock
- Loss of bladder or bowel control (If you also have significant weakness in both legs, you could have a serious problem and should seek immediate attention.)
- A burning pain centered in the neck
A herniated disc in the neck may cause pain in the muscles between your neck and shoulder (trapezius muscles). The pain may shoot down the arm. The pain may also cause headaches in the back of the head. Other symptoms include:
- Weakness in one arm
- Tingling (a “pins-and-needles” sensation) or numbness in one arm
- Loss of bladder or bowel control (If you also have significant weakness in both arms or legs, you could have a serious problem and should seek immediate attention.)
- Burning pain in the shoulders, neck, or arm
To diagnose a herniated disk, provide your doctor with your complete medical history. Be very specific when describing your accident and the symptoms you immediately experienced thereafter. A physical examination will help determine which nerve roots are affected (and how seriously). An X-ray may show evidence of disk or degenerative spine changes. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) are imaging tests to confirm which disk is injured. An electromyography, a test that measures nerve impulses to the muscles, may be recommended if the pain continues.
Nonsurgical treatment is effective in treating the symptoms of herniated disks in more than 90% of patients. Most neck or back pain will resolve gradually with simple measures.
- Rest and over-the-counter pain relievers may be all that is needed.
- Muscle relaxers, analgesics, and anti-inflammatory medications are also helpful.
- Cold compresses or ice can also be applied several times a day for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
- After any spasms settle, gentle heat applications may be used.
- Physical therapy.
Surgery may be required if conservative measures do not relieve the symptoms. Surgical options in the lower back include microdiskectomy or laminectomy, depending on the size and position of the disk herniation.
In the neck, an anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion are usually recommended. This involves removing the entire disk to take the pressure off the spinal cord and nerve roots. Bone is placed in the disk space and a metal plate may be used to stabilize the spine.
For some patients, a smaller surgery may be performed on the back of the neck that does not require fusing the bones together.
If you have suffered this type of injury, due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. These types of accidents require expert analysis and the resources of an experienced, board certified civil trial attorney. The Law Office of Steven S. Farbman, P.A., specializes in cases involving this type of injury and will make sure the negligent parties are held accountable for their actions. The Law Office of Steven S. Farbman, P.A. is committed to helping people who have been involved in an accident. We understand that being injured in an accident is a difficult time for you. Our office will be there for you in your time of despair. You are more than a file number at the Law Office of Steven S. Farbman, P.A.. You are family. We will protect your rights and aggressively pursue all legal remedies available to you under the law.
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