One of the most common injuries from a car accident or truck accident in Michigan are neck and back pain. Sometimes the pain is muscular and goes away after a few days. But sometimes the pain lasts much longer because the impact causes damage to the discs that protect the vertebrae in the spine. When these discs tear or break, a disc herniation, bulging disc or protrusion can occur that causes immense pain and discomfort.
Neck and back pain are often called whiplash. Whiplash can manifest itself in many different ways. When whiplash is more significant, it can result in numbness and tingling that goes down the arms or legs. This can be the result of a disc herniation.
Car accidents are one of the main causes of disc herniation. They can lead to extensive medical treatment, such as physical therapy, pain injections and even surgery to repair the herniation. An experienced Michigan car accident law firm that knows and understands the science and medicine behind disc herniations can make the difference in obtaining substantial compensation from a car wreck.
What Is A Herniated Disc?
The vertebrae and tissue that form the spine in your back are cushioned by small, spongy discs. When these discs are healthy, they act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep the spine flexible. But when a disc is damaged, it may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated disc. It may also be called a slipped disc or ruptured disc.
Herniated discs can occur in the neck or back. The symptoms of herniated disc are painful disabling, numbness, and weakness around the body where the nerve travels. The herniated disc can cause radiculopathy, which is when the numbness and pain radiates into different parts of the body, such as the arms and legs.
How Does a Car Accident Cause a Disc Herniation?
Intervertebral discs are like shock absorbers between your vertebrae in your spine. They are made up of a tough but flexible outer ring (annulus fibrosus) and a soft, jelly like center called the nucleus pulposis.
These discs are very delicate. When a car accident occurs, the force of the crash can cause the vertebrae to tear the disc. Annual tears cause localized pain around the damaged disc. But a more severe tear can cause the disc to leak into the abutting nerves that make up the spinal canal.
These nerves carry messages from your brain to all areas of your body. Nerve impingement from a herniated disc due to a car crash can cause numbness, tingling, and weakness to the legs and feet.
What is Whiplash?
Whiplash is a common term used to describe neck and back pain following a car collision or car crash. It occurs from the rapid back-and-forth movement of the head and neck after a car accident which causes damage and tearing to the ligaments, muscles and nerves along the spine. Whiplash can affect both the low back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine).
Whiplash is often referred to as a “soft tissue” injury by the insurance industry. But there is nothing soft about whiplash injury. It is important to consult a doctor who specializes in whiplash injury and neck or low back pain after a car accident. Obtaining proper and fast treatment after an auto accident can make a huge difference in the ability to quickly recover.
What is a Lumbar Disc Herniation?
The lumbar spine is the lower back area. It is made up of five vertebrae. In between each vertebrae are discs.
A lumbar disc herniation is a disc bulge in the lumbar spine that impacts the nerves adjacent to the disc in the lower back area. When a disc herniates, it puts direct pressure on the spinal nerve root and causes pain, numbness or weakness along the path of the nerve. Bulging, torn or herniated discs might also cause nerve pain if a disc fragment presses against or irritates nearby spinal nerves.
Sometimes, a lumbar disc herniation is called sciatica. Herniated discs can be diagnosed through a doctor’s examination and through medical testing, such as MRI and EMG.
How Do I Know If a Car Crash Caused A Disc Herniation?
Relating the pain from a low back or neck injury to the car accident is a key part of a Michigan car accident case. Subjective complaints of pain, or the patient’s own complaints, are important indicators. But subjective complaints of low back pain or numbness and tingling only goes so far. Instead, objective testing which can demonstrate structural damage to the spine is important medical evidence that make the difference between winning and losing a case.
One of the most important objective tests is MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging. An MRI will show the disc space between the vertebrae and whether a disc is impinging on a nerve. If you are involved in a car accident, and the pain is not going away, a doctor should prescribe an MRI test so your physician can see if you have a herniated disc or some type of nerve impingement.
An MRI will also determine whether there are annular tears in the discs. Annular tears cause the inner, jelly-like nucleus of a disc to leak into the spinal canal. This herniation of the disc causes nerve pain. The MRI will show where the annular tears are located and the severity of the disc herniation.
Using this information, your doctor or pain specialist can then determine if the car accident caused the disc herniation and resulting pain and numbness.
Usually, if a patient has a rapid onset of pain or tingling following the car crash, and the MRI shows a disc herniation or disc bulge, then it is easy for a doctor to relate the back pain and herniation to the accident. Annular tears are another indication.
However, it is important for a doctor to get a full medical history. If a patient has a history of low back pain or even had MRIs in the past, the doctor and radiologist need to compare the MRI films to see what, if anything, has changed. Annular tears that have osteophytes around them suggest arthritis rather than a disc herniation related to a car accident.
But it is important to remember that just because a person has a history of low back pain, doesn’t mean they can’t make a claim for compensation following a car accident. A car wreck in Michigan that aggravates or exacerbates an existing low back or neck injury also counts. Under Michigan law, a person can obtain money compensation for their injuries even if they suffered from the same injury before the accident.
What Are Treatments for Disc Herniation?
Initially, treatment for herniated disc in the neck or back is conservative. This conservative treatment can include physical therapy, steroid injections, massage, and pain medication. However, if conservative treatment is unsuccessful in alleviating the pain, surgery may be performed to resolve pain complaints and allow the patient to recover.
The causes of herniated disc include wear and tear of the disc and thus a degeneration of the disc itself. However, a traumatic event, such as an automobile accident, slip and fall, or work accident can cause the disc herniation. If such a traumatic event was the cause of the herniation, and if negligence did in fact occur, then it may be possible to recover against the party that caused the herniation.
Michigan Disc Bulge Injury Lawyers
For over 40 years, The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. has helped Michigan herniated disc victims win their case and collect the compensation they deserve.
Please call Lee Free and Michigan herniated disc lawyers at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form so we can answer any questions you may have about herniated discs, neck injury and spinal cord injury.
You pay nothing until we settle your Michigan personal injury case. Let us help you today.
Ask Lee Free
Q: I have a herniated disc and radiculopathy (pain travelling down my leg). What test should I get to determine where I stand medically?
A: You should ask your doctor for an MRI. Other tests like x-ray and CT do provide useful information but are less detailed than MRI.
Q: What kind of treatments do doctors recommend for a herniated disc?
A: Physicians recommend all different types of medical treatment for a herniated disc. Usually, treatment will depend on the severity of the injury, your age, medical history and other factors. However, treatment plans for a herniated disc can include pain medication, physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, chiropractic treatment, and surgery such as a laminectomy or fusion.
Q: What are common causes of a traumatic disc herniation?
A: Trauma can cause disc herniation and disc bulges. This trauma can result from car accidents, slip and falls, trip and falls, work falls and other accidents.
Q: What does a disc herniation feel like?
A: Typically, you will feel a sharp pain in your back or neck that extend to your leg or arm. If it’s a lumbar herniation, then you can feel the most pain in your buttocks, thigh and calf. If the disc herniation is in your neck, then typically the pain is in your shoulder and arm. The pain can also be associated with radiating numbness or tingling into the arms, fingers and down the legs. Weakness can also occur as the muscles are affected.
Q: What are signs that I have a herniated disc?
A: Everyone is different and there are no exact disc herniation symptoms. However, if you have pain while sitting down, radiating pain into your arms or legs, and the pain is made worse with physical activity (like bending, lifting or kneeling), then you may have a herniated or slipped disc.