At some point after a car accident or a personal injury you may notice that the pain in your neck or back has not gone away. Or, you notice that have you numbness, tingling, or some other sensation in your arms or legs. You can’t quite figure out what the issue is and you tell a doctor. The doctor has you go through some physical therapy, but that doesn’t help either. Eventually, the doctor orders an MRI and tells you the news: You’ve got a herniated disk. Unfortunately, the doctor doesn’t spend much time talking to you about what this means for you and how it happened. So, you want to know more and you want to know if the herniated disk was caused by a wreck. First, let’s examine what a herniated disk is.
According to Mayo’s Clinic, a herniated disk “results when a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage allows some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disk. Herniated disks are also called ruptured disks or slipped disks, although the whole disk does not rupture or slip. Only the small area of the crack is affected. Compared with a bulging disk, a herniated disk is more likely to cause pain because it generally protrudes farther and is more likely to irritate nerve roots. The irritation can be from compression of the nerve or, much more commonly, the herniation causes a painful inflammation of the nerve root.”
Basically, a herniated disk occurs when small part of cartilage inside of a disk (the thing between your vertebrae) protrudes or breaks through the outer lining of the cartilage around the disk. Here’s some helpful imagery — pretend that your disk is like a round jelly-filled donut: When there’s enough trauma or pressure on the donut, a small part of that jelly will squeeze out. That numbness and tingling that you feel in your arms, hands, legs, or feet? You might be feeling those sensations because the jelly that squeezed out is touching a nerve and sending signals down your limbs.
There are multiple ways to treat the symptoms associated with a herniated disk. These treatments can include physical therapy, chiropractic care, ice and heat, and cortisone shots. These methods are all considered “conservative care” treatment options. Unfortunately, many of these treatments do not work and surgery is recommended. Of course, how a herniated disk is treated is completely up to the doctor and the patient and there’s no “one size fits all” approach.
You might be asking: Was the herniated disk caused by the car accident, though? Well, it depends. If you were having no symptoms before the car accident or personal injury, then it’s very possible the trauma caused your herniated disk. The doctor may tell you that degenerative disk disease played a role in causing your herniated disk, but don’t be afraid of that and read more about what that means here.
Also, you might not have noticed the numbness or tingling because you were dealing with whiplash injuries from a strain or sprain and once those symptoms went away, you finally noticed new sensations. An insurance adjustor might tell you that there’s nothing in your medical records right after the car accident so show a herniated disk. But, don’t let a doctor or an insurance adjustor stop you from exploring your rights. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney to review your medical records and to hear your story about the accident or injury.
A herniated disk is a serious injury and can lead to a lifetime of medical treatment. Ultimately, the role of a personal injury attorney in cases involving a herniated disk is to make sure that the client’s claim is properly prosecuted and the person responsible for the injury is held accountable. If you have a question about your herniated disk and whether a car accident attorney can help you, do not hesitate to contact us.