The vertebral disc is an important component of the spinal system, acting as a “shock absorber” between the vertebrae to make sure that the bones do not rub together as you bend, twist, and turn. Because the discs are so vital to movement, a disc injury can be extremely painful and debilitating. Discs can be damaged in severe car accidents, slips-and-falls, workplace accidents, and following high-impact sports injuries. They can easily affect your ability to work and your ability to live a normal, pain-free life.
If you have suffered a disc injury due to the reckless or careless actions of another person, you have the right to seek compensation for the pain and costly expenses that have been forced upon you. The Sacramento and Roseville injury lawyers at The Sevey Law Firm are prepared to put their extensive experience to work for you. Our clients have recovered millions of dollars in compensation with our assistance, so contact us to discuss how we can assist you today.
What is a Disc Injury?
The two most common kinds of disc injuries are bulging discs and herniated discs. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they are actually two separate injuries.
A bulging disc (also known as disc protrusion), occurs when pressure in the central core of the disc forces the disc to bulge at the outer rim. The disc remains contained because there are no tears in the outer layer of the disc, and no leakage of the material inside the disc. If left untreated, a bulging disc can tear and become herniated. Bulging discs can press against the nerves in the spine and can cause serious pain to radiate out to the extremities.
With a herniated disc, the disc will have ruptured and the gel-like material inside the disc will leak out. When the disc wall or material inside the disc (nucleus propulsus) puts pressure on the spinal cord or the spinal nerve root, the victim may experience pain radiating to the extremities, back and neck pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking.
What Causes Disc Injuries?
Car accidents are a leading cause of disc injuries. When the impact of a collision causes damage to the spinal column, the discs can easily be damaged. Whiplash, which involves a sudden, rapid, severe front-to-back movement of the head and neck, is a common car accident injury and can cause discs to rupture.
A slip and fall accident or a collision or impact during sports or other physical activity can also caused discs to herniate. Heavy lifting at work or repetitive motions are also commonly-reported causes of disc injuries. Sudden twisting motions or immediate strain on the lower back can cause the discs to bulge or become herniated.
Symptoms of a Disc Injury
The spine is separated into three segments: the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine (upper back), and the lumbar spine (lower back). Each segment has different symptoms when discs rupture and start leaking fluid.
Herniated discs in the lumbar spine can cause sciatica (burning pain down the legs), which depending on the location in the lumbar spine can also result in nerve impingements that cause weakness in your feet and possibly impact balance when standing. Numbness and serious pain are common with herniated discs in the lumbar spine.
When a disc ruptures in the cervical spine, depending on where the rupture occurs, symptoms may include weakness in various parts of your arm, ranging from the shoulder area down to the hands with numbness, pain, and tingling that radiates down from the area of weakness.
Herniated disks in the thoracic spine usually do not produce any symptoms nor do they cause any pain, but if symptoms and pain are present, they occur in either the chest or the upper back.
Side Effects or Complications of a Disc Injury
A severe disc injury can lead to nerve loss and permanent damage to the affected area. In extremely rare cases, a herniated disc can sever nerve impulses to the cauda equine nerves that are located in your lower back and legs, which lead to loss of bladder and bowel control.
Additionally, you may experience a condition known as “saddle anesthesia”, where, due to disc compression, you may lose feeling in your inner thighs, the back of your legs, and around your rectum.
Diagnosing a Disc Injury
Herniated disc diagnosis begins with a physical examination that will test your reflexes, your ability to walk, your muscle strength, and your ability to feel physical sensations like pinpricks, vibrations, and light touching.
The next part of diagnosing a herniated disc may involve several types of imaging tests. While an x-ray cannot show a herniated disc, they are usually performed to rule out any other possibilities for back, shoulder, or neck pain. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will show the exact location of the herniated disc and what nearby areas are affected by it. A myelogram is a test in which dye is injected into your spinal fluid and x-rays are done to show whether there is pressure being exerted by the herniated disc on your spinal cord and nerves.
Treating a Disc Injury
Treatment for a herniated disc can be accomplished without surgery. Patients will follow a four-to-six week regimen of applying hot/cold packs, using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, and optionally physical therapy or chiropractic interventions.
However, in the case of severe disc injuries, where weakness, pain, and numbness are widespread throughout the arms and legs, surgery may be the best option. It is important to have a medical professional identify the cause, location, and severity of the condition before determining whether surgery is necessary. Your surgeon may recommend one or more procedures, including:
- Diskectomy – This is the most common surgery for herniated discs in the lumbar region of the back. The surgeon will make a small incision and remove all or part of the disc that is putting pressure on the nerve root.
- Laminotomy or Laminectomy – A small incision will be made in the lamina (or vertebral arch) to relieve pressure on the nerve roots.
- Artificial disc replacement – Just as it sounds, your surgeon may replace a herniated disc with a plastic or metal disc.
- Spinal fusion – This surgery will fuse two or more vertebrae together with bone grafts or metal or plastic screws and rods to immobilize the affected area.
Contact an Experienced Disc injury Lawyer
The Roseville disc injury attorneys at The Sevey Law Firm understand just how serious back and spine injuries can be. We know the lasting pain that they can cause, and how that pain can affect your ability to work and support yourself and your family. That’s why we fight so hard for people who have suffered disc injuries here in Northern California. We will not rest until you get the justice and fair compensation that you are owed if you are hurt due to someone else’s reckless, careless, or intentional actions.
We are here to help you. Contact us by calling (916) 788-7100 or fill out a contact form to schedule your free, confidential consultation today.