A herniated disc is a very common injury that we come across in many of our Massachusetts personal injury cases. These types of spinal injuries often occur in motor vehicle accidents, but we have seen many result from slip and falls and work-related accidents too. Below is a simple introductory explanation of a herniated disc injuries and some treatment options. These are considered serious injuries and, sometimes, require surgical procedures to treat.
If you suffered a herniated disc in a car accident or any other type of accident that was caused by someone else, you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney. Mahaney & Pappas, LLP has well over 40 years of combined experience representing individuals and families in personal injury claims and lawsuits, many involving herniated disc injuries. It is crucial that your accident lawyer be knowledgeable and experienced with herniated disc injuries, as these are very serious and often result in significant damages.
Brief Summary of Herniated Disc Injuries
Before we discuss a herniation of a disc, we must first understand what a disc or disk is. The vertebral disc is a fibrocartilage that lies between the individual vertebrae and the vertebral column in our spine. These discs are composed of two different parts: a tough outer portion (the annulus fibrosus) and a soft inner core (nucleus pulposus). They have been described as something like a jelly doughnut. These discs serve many purposes, including serving as shock absorbers, holding the vertebrae together and allowing for mobility in our spine.
Now to the herniation part. In short, a herniated disc is where the bone structure in the spine is compressed causing the tough rubbery outer portion of the disc between the individual vertebrae to tear. Enough pressure from an accident will sometimes force the softer inner portion of the disc outward through the tear. This will cause an entrapment of the nerve root or compression of the spinal cord.
A herniated disc causes neurological problems when it extrudes far enough to entrap or compress the nearby nerve roots. Compression or irritation of the nerves can cause pain, numbness or weakness in the upper extremities (e.g., arms) or lower extremities (e.g., legs) depending on the location of the herniation. Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine (or lower back), but are just as common in the cervical region (or the neck).
Herniation in the Lumbar Spine
If the herniation occurs in the lumbar spine back you would typically experience radiating pain into your buttocks and lower extremities, such as your thigh or calf. This is the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve that travels from your back to the lower leg.
Herniation in the Cervical Spine
If the herniation occurs in the neck (cervical spine) you may feel pain running down the shoulder into the arm, even tingling and numbness is the fingers of the affected side. This is the compression or irritation of the median or ulnar nerve.
How Herniated Discs are Suffered and Treated
There are many types of spinal injuries, conditions and complications that can occur from an accident. We often see herniated discs result from serious car accidents. With significant crashes, such as a rear-end collision, the head and back can snap forwards and backwards resulting in pressure and shifting in the spine. Enough pressure or force can cause a disc to herniate. Following an accident, herniated discs are typically detected from an MRI. These injuries are not to be taken lightly.
The treatment for a herniated disc depends on the severity of the symptoms. In less serious cases, an accident victim will require physical therapy, muscle relaxers, and pain medication. In more serious cases, an accident victim may require epidural cortisone injections or surgical operations. Some surgical procedures involve laminectomy, laminoplasty and cervical spinal fusion. Recently a client of ours from Worcester, MA was seriously injured in a crash in Westborough. This man was stopped at a red light when another driver was distracted and didn’t see the cars stopped at the red light. He crashed directly into the rear of our client’s vehicle. Our client suffered a herniation of a disc in the cervical spine. His injury was so severe that it required an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. This is a procedure in which the surgeon exposes the spine through an incision in the front of the neck. The herniated disc is removed and the space is refilled with the patients or a donor bone and fusing the adjacent vertebrae together.
With a spinal fusion procedure, often a cage is used as a space holding device between the vertebrae. This cage becomes part of your spine forever. For example, in another case of ours, a Hopkinton woman in her early fifties underwent such a procedure as a result of a motor vehicle crash on the Mass Pike (Interstate 90). The concern with having such a procedure done to an individual of her age is that her spine naturally degenerates as she ages but is left with a metal cage implanted in a portion her spine. It’s not uncommon that overtime the implanted cage will have adverse effects on the remaining vertebrae.
As you can see, a herniated disc is a very serious injury with severe consequences. The damages are often very high with these types of injuries. For these reasons, anyone who suffers a herniated disc in an accident caused by someone else should always consult with an experienced injury attorney. A lawyer experienced in handling crashes that result in herniated discs will afford an accident victim quality legal representation to seek and recover the financial compensation they deserve for their injuries.
Speak With an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has suffered a herniated disc or other spinal injury in an accident, you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. An accident attorney can help educate you on the personal injury process, explain your legal rights and fight to get you the full and fair compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Feel free to contact us online or call us at (508) 879-3500 to schedule your complimentary case evaluation. We are happy to review your case and explain how we can help secure the financial compensation you deserve.