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Injuries: Annular Disc Tear

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Jeff Sevey

Auto accidents can result in a wide variety of injuries. Back, neck, and spine injuries are common, and in this article, we’ll examine a frequent back injury called an annular disc tear.

An annular disc tear is a tear in the very tough outermost layer of the spinal discs. There are two reasons that this can occur - either because of spinal trauma or due to the natural aging process. Small annular tears are common and don't affect the integrity of the disc within the spine. Because of this, there is no impingement on the nearby spinal nerves, no pain results, and the condition goes unnoticed. It is only when there is disc material pressing onto the nearby nerves that pain and other symptoms will result.

If you've been involved in a car accident, and you begin to feel pain in your neck or back, make an appointment with a physician. They will give you a series of tests and physical exams, and interview you about the accident and your past and current symptoms. Your doctor may order medical imaging tests, such as an MRI or a CT scan. These tests, exams, and questions will allow your doctor to properly diagnose your annular disc tear, and decide on a course of treatment that will help you recover.

What Causes an Annular Tear?

There are two major causes for any annular disc tear: degeneration of the spine due to aging, or traumatic injury. In many cases, natural aging will cause the degeneration of the spine, but a traumatic injury - a car accident or fall - can result in the sudden tearing of the outermost layer of the disc as well.

Aging and Spinal Degeneration

During your life, your spine absorbs a lot of stress and pressure into the discs simply through day to day activities. In fact, by the time you’re 30 years old, your vertebral discs have begun to dry out and weaken. This is what makes your discs susceptible to an annular tear. Also as we wage, we tend to gain weight. This adds additional pressure, wear, and tear on the discs, making them more apt to damage.

Traumatic Injury

When you're involved in an accident, the impact can create myriad neck,  spine, and back injuries. A traumatic car accident can easily lead to an annular disc tear due to the immense forces involved. The excessive force of being hit by another vehicle and thrown around in a car results in injuries that could lead to an annular tear.

Annular Disc Tear Symptoms

The symptoms of an annular tear are varied, and it takes a physician to make this diagnosis. If you’ve suffered an annular disc tear, you may have:

  • Pain at the exact location of the damage to the disc
  • Pain that radiates from the location of the damage to other areas of the body such as arms and legs
  • Weakness or tingling in the arms and legs
  • A burning sensation at the location of the damage, or radiating from the location of the damage

You may have one of these symptoms or all of them. You may have a little pain, or excruciating pain, depending on the severity of the tear. Your physician can help you decide what the best course of treatment is for your particular injuries.

Treatments for Annular Disc Tear

The treatment prescribed for an annular disc tear will usually involve a physical therapy program as well as low-impact exercises, anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications, and limited rest. Usually, these combined treatments will offer relief over a few weeks' time. If the pain is not alleviated, more advanced treatments may be recommended up to and including spinal surgery.

At The Sevey Law Firm we have extensive experience in personal injury law and spinal injuries, in particular. In fact, here are just two of the settlements we have been able to secure for clients that we have legally represented:

$600,000 Settlement: Automobile Injury Accident. Our client, age 36, was driving a Lexus sedan and was rear ended by another vehicle. Our client's car sustained $7,000 in property damage, and she suffered injury to her neck. Our client underwent an MRI which revealed nothing. Her symptoms persisted, and she was sent for a cervical discogram. A discogram helps diagnose discogenic pain and annular tears. The results evidenced a significant problem. Without the discogram, our client would have never been properly diagnosed, and her case would have been worth significantly less money. Our client subsequently underwent surgery. Because of the progressive nature and potential for future neck problems, we were able to obtain medical testimony evidencing that our client's work life would be reduced by ten years. At the time of the accident, our client earned $70,000 per year and had not missed much work. Our Client works for the State of California in a desk position. However, using the medical testimony, we were able to resolve her case for $600,000. Thinking ahead and outside the box sometimes opens doors to damages that other lawyers may never think about. Most lawyers do not realize that surgery is usually a temporary fix to a problem. Neck pain will return at some point and it will affect the client's ability in the future to work.

$400,000 Settlement: Pedestrian v. Vehicle Injury Accident. Our client was injured when a vehicle rolled back hitting him on the head and knocking him on his back. The driver had exited the vehicle and forgot to engage her brakes. Our client was picking up the recycling bins at the edge of the sidewalk and never noticed the vehicle until he was struck. This occurred in front of defendant’s home. Our client underwent a discogram which revealed annular tears at L4-5. The doctor recommended surgery; however, the client refused. Our client changed jobs and became a jeweler. His income was significantly reduced, and he was left with no health insurance. We retained an economist and resolved the case for $400,000. The client now owns his own jewelry store, and is now able to afford health insurance.

If you have back pain resulting from a car accident that wasn’t your fault, we encourage you to come in for a free, confidential consultation. Our attorneys can professionally assess your case and help you get the compensation you need for the treatments that will help bring you back to the life you had prior to the accident. You can reach us at (916) 788-7100 or through our online contact page.

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