Can a Car Accident Cause a Herniated Disc?

Herniated discs from spine injuries caused by car accidents account for many disabilities and deaths in the United States annually. It stems from whiplash, a common rear-end collision injury that jerks the body in a whip-like motion.

Learn about spinal injuries from car accidents, the medical treatments available, and how to get fair compensation under the law.

Types of Spinal Injuries Resulting From Car Accidents

image of a herniated disc via MRI Imagine a human anatomy without a spine. Humans cannot move freely–bend, stand up, sit upright, run, or walk around. The spinal column is one of the most vital parts of the body. It provides structure and support to the body and protects the spinal cord. Human organs cannot function with a damaged spinal cord. It is vital to keep the spine healthy because spinal injuries resulting from car accidents can permanently disable a person for life.

Here are the spinal column injuries resulting from car accidents:

  • Herniated Disc Injuries

In the spinal column, soft gel-like cushions, called spinal discs in between vertebrae (small bones), support the spine by acting as a shock absorber and keep vertebrae from rubbing against each other. An outer layer (annulus) protects the small round discs.
An automobile accident can cause the annulus to shift, tear, or rupture. The violent impact pushes a fragment of the disc out of the annulus into the spinal canal. Thus, it becomes a herniated or ruptured disc. Once inside the spinal canal, it compresses the spinal nerves responsible for signals to the brain. This nerve infringement, caused by herniated and ruptured discs, causes spinal cord dysfunction and sends out sharp radiating pain and numbness throughout the body.

Herniated disc injuries commonly affect areas like the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). In severe cases, lumbar spine herniation causes mobility problems. Some commonly used terms to describe damaged discs include slipped, herniated, ruptured, bulging discs, and nerve infringement.

  • Whiplash Injuries

Whiplash is a common injury sustained in rear-end collisions. The body jerks in a whip-like motion. The impact forces the cervical spine and body to move forward while the head remains behind. Whipping the head backward and the sudden forward pull force the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck and spine areas to stretch beyond their normal range. It puts pressure on the cervical spine and causes a herniated disc. The slipped or ruptured disc can cause excruciating pain in the neck, arms, and spine. Whiplash can cause multiple herniated discs and may not be visible during the initial examination.

  • Spinal Cord Injuries

The spinal cord is within the spinal column and starts from the base of the skull down to the vertebral level and ends at the tailbone. It has segmental nerve roots that exit the column between each vertebra and branch out into the body to form the peripheral nervous system. The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system.

All lesions to the cord are spinal cord injuries (SCI). A traumatic SCI can result from a car accident. Depending upon the extent of the injuries, symptoms of SCI can include loss of memory and involuntary regulations of the body, like breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, bowel and bladder control, and sexual function. It also affects motor control of the upper and lower limbs. There is a more extensive range of impairments if the lesions occur at a higher level.

  • Spinal Fractures

A high-velocity impact from a car accident such as a head on collision can cause spinal fractures or dislocation of the vertebrae (backbone). The violent forward flex in an auto accident forces the vertebrae to pull apart and can occur anywhere along the spine. If untreated, spinal fractures can lead to permanent spinal cord injury, paralysis, and nerve impairment.

  • Facet Joint Injuries

The facet joints connect each vertebra in the spinal column. They act as pillars by providing structure and support to the vertebral column. The facet joints are susceptible to degeneration and sprains. Getting injured in a car accident is not an exception. The injured person can develop facet joint syndrome characterized by arthritic inflammation. It causes severe pain in the facet joints and often leads to chronic back pain.

How Do I Know I Am Suffering From a Herniated Disc Injury?

Do you experience numbness on one side of the body after a vehicular accident? How about tingling or numbness in the legs or feet? Most people do not know they have herniated discs after an accident because the early signs are not visible in the initial examination.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

The herniated disc symptoms may vary depending on the position of the herniated disc and the size of the disc herniation. If the bulging disc is not pressing on the nerves, the patient may feel minimal back pain or no pain at all. Otherwise, severe or chronic pain is inevitable because the herniated disc exerts extra pressure on the nerves and surrounding muscles. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience these symptoms :

  • Muscle weakness caused by nerve impairment
  • Nerve pain and numbness on one side of the body
  • Neck pain at the sides or back of your neck
  • Leg pain when walking short distances
  • Pain that worsens after prolonged sitting or standing
  • Pain with movements like bending or turning your neck
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Loss of strength in your arms, legs, or feet
  • Back pain

Can a Herniated Disc Heal?

A herniated disc can heal on its own with simple home remedies. You may take bed rest for one to three days if the pain is severe and apply heat or ice to the affected area. Avoid long periods of rest to prevent muscle stiffness. You may take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. An exercise program designed by a licensed physical therapist will help loosen tight muscles and relieve pressure on the nerves.

If the pain worsens and interferes with daily activities, seek medical attention as soon as possible! Your healthcare provider will order a battery of tests after an extensive physical examination.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the most accurate imaging test for a suspected herniated disc.
  • A Computed Tomography (CT) Scan shows the bones in the spine. The herniated disc can move in the space around the spinal cord and press on them.
  • An X-ray helps rule out other causes of neck or back pain.

Your healthcare provider may recommend the following advanced treatments if symptoms persist:

  • Spinal Injections

An epidural steroid injection is a shot of steroid medication directly into your spine. It reduces swelling and inflammation of the nerve caused by disc herniation.

  • Surgery

Your healthcare provider may recommend emergency surgery when large disc herniation injures the nerves on the bladder and bowel.

Surgical procedures like spinal decompression surgery, fusion surgery, lumbar fusion surgery, and anterior cervical discectomy help relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

For non-emergency cases, surgery is the last option if other types of treatment fail.

Steps To Take When You Suffer a Herniated Disc From a Car Accident

Follow these steps after getting a herniated disc from an auto accident:

  • Get examined immediately – Go to your nearest healthcare provider and get an extensive physical examination and laboratory tests, which include MRI. Do this as soon as possible after a car accident occurs.
  • SEEK medical treatment immediately – If your laboratory tests confirm a herniated disc, consult your doctor and get the prescribed medication. Ask your doctor about the appropriate medical treatment for your injury.
  • Gather Proper documentation – Compile laboratory test findings, doctor’s diagnoses, and prescriptions and avoid problems with your insurance company. Early documentation provides proof that the crash caused the herniated disc.
  • Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer – An experienced personal injury lawyer will represent you in your case and help you get fair compensation for damages caused by the at-fault driver.
  • Tell your insurance about your herniated discs -Present all pertinent documents to your insurance and include a written notice of injury in your application for no-fault benefits.

What Can You Claim Against The Insurance Company?

In a no-fault state like Michigan, you get insurance benefits from your insurance, regardless if you are at fault or not. Your no-fault insurance will help you cover medical treatments and laboratory tests like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), lost wages, transportation expenses to and from the doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and household replacement services.

How An Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Can Help Car Accident Victims Fight For Fair Compensation

An experienced car accident attorney will ensure you get fair compensation for all claims related to the incident. He will explain and help you understand your legal rights. He will investigate your insurance coverage and help you claim your insurance benefits. By representing you in court, an experienced car accident lawyer will ensure you get all monetary benefits, including future economic loss and pain and suffering compensation provided by law.

Get a Free Consultation From Car Accident Lawyers About Your Personal Injury Claim

Contact our attorneys in Lansing, Michigan, for a free consultation about your injury case. We will assess your case at no cost and help you recover all damages related to your car accident. Your legal right is our concern. Call The Clark Law Firm at (517)347-6900 now!

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