A severe car accident can cause a herniated disc in your spine. Spinal discs are like cushions in between the vertebrae. These discs provide cushion to the vertebrae. Of course, over time, these discs start to degenerate. The discs are filled with fluid. But when a disc is damaged, it can bulge or break. This is a herniated disc. Sometimes a herniated disc is called a ruptured disc or slipped disc. When a disc is damaged in an auto accident, the fluid inside the disc can leak which affects the cushion between the vertebrae. If the herniation is significant, it can put pressure on the nerves running along the spinal column. This can cause significant pain running up and down the body since everything is connected to the spine. This pain can “radiate” throughout the body – through the extremities. The pressure on the nerve causes “radicular” pain which is pain that shoots through the body. Different nerves in the spine are generally associated with different parts of the body. Sometimes doctors can figure out which nerve is affected due to the area of the body having the most pain. For example, leg pain is associated with lumbar (back), or arm pain comes from a cervical (neck) herniated disc.
A disc injury is usually easy to diagnose. However, a herniated disc is tougher to diagnose. This is because the disc doesn’t show up on a basic x-ray. Therefore, herniated discs aren’t usually diagnosed in the hospital after a car accident. Sometimes a subsequent CT scan, MRI, discography, myelography, or an electromyography can help diagnose herniated discs. Even then, it is tough for a personal injury case because you have to show an “acute” injury which means the injury can be related to the auto accident. If the herniation pre-dates the accident, there is the argument it was asymptomatic until the accident. The car accident may have aggravated the condition in some way. Sometimes this is a tough sell, especially if a client has disc bulges at several disc levels as is often the case as we age.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia,