Our Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys Share Some Important Things You Should Know About Herniated and Bulging Discs
Spinal injuries, like herniated discs and bulging discs, are frequently caused by car accidents, premises liability accidents, as well as other types of accidents. They are usually caused by a forceful and sudden twisting or whipping of the spine.
The Anatomy of a Healthy Neck and Back
There are 33 bones, or vertebrae, that make up the spine. The vertebrae are stacked one on top of the other, and support the neck and back. This is known as the vertebral column. Each vertebra is identified by location and number. The vertebrae of the neck are referred to as the cervical vertebrae, while those located in the low back are referred to as lumbar vertebrae. The thoracic or dorsal vertebrae are located in between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae. Within each section, the individual bones are numbered. For example, the bones of the low back, or lumbar vertebrae, are known as L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5.
The bones of the spine are separated, and cushioned by intervertebral discs. These discs are composed of a soft gelatinous material called the nucleus pulposus which is surrounded by a tough fibrous outer ring called the annulus fibrosis. The intervertebral discs are identified by location. For example, your MRI may show that you have a disc injury to the L4-L5 disc. This means that your disc injury is between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae of the low back.
Common Neck and Back Injuries Caused by Accidents
While you can fracture a bony vertebra itself in a car accident or other type of accident, more commonly it is the disc in between the two vertebrae that is damaged in an accident. Two common accident related injuries are bulging discs and herniated discs. A bulging disc can occur when the outer ring of the disc is stretched and bulges beyond the margins of the vertebrae. A herniated disc occurs when the annulus fibrosis is torn and the gelatinous nucleus pulposus spills out. This can be extremely painful because the gelatinous material of the disc itself can put pressure on adjacent nerves. When this happens, a patient may experience radiating nerve pain down the extremity. This is called radiculopathy. Pain radiating down the arms and into the hands is usually associated with a disc injury in the neck, or cervical spine. Pain into the legs is usually associated with a disc injury in the low back, or lumbar spine. In addition, the disc material itself can cause an intense chemical irritation when it comes into contact with nearby nerves.
Treatments For Your Neck or Back Injury
Injuries to the spine are usually diagnosed by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). There are several treatments available to manage a disc injury, including physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and rest. Your doctor may recommend trigger point or epidural steroid injections, both of which are targeted methods to reduce swelling and pain. There are also many different types of surgical procedures that are available, if your doctor determines that you need surgery. For example, during an operation called the Microendoscopic Discectomy, doctors create a small, minimally invasive incision which is used to remove a portion of the damaged disc. In another operation called a Discectomy and Fusion surgery, the entire damaged disc is removed and replaced with a bone graft secured by metal and screws. More recently, doctors have been performing disc replacement surgery. In this procedure, surgeons replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc. As with any surgery, you should discuss all options with your surgeon, and pick the type of surgery that makes the most sense for your condition.
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If you have any questions about the accident that caused your herniated or bulging discs, contact our experienced injury attorneys for more information by calling (800) 762-9300. You can also get started by simply filling out one of our case intake forms, and we will have one of our attorneys get right back to you.
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