Discs are the cushions that separate the vertebrae in your neck and back. They are made of fluid and absorb shock to your body, specifically the spine. Having healthy discs is important to the overall health of your nervous system. When a disc is herniated, it is pushed outside of the spine and can cause excruciating pain.
A car crash can cause you to suffer a herniated disc that makes it difficult to stand, walk, lie down, or complete just about any physical task. This is why, when a victim of a car accident experiences pain in their back, doctors will immediately check them for a herniated disc. The discs in the spine can become herniated, bulge, be pushed, or even rupture. It all depends on the severity of the crash, the position of the victim, and if they had any pre-existing injuries to the spine or back.
When a disc is herniated it can also cause victims to experience numbness or tingling in their fingers, hands, arms, toes, feet, and legs. This is why it’s so important to seek medical attention if you are ever involved in an accident. A single herniated disc can wreak havoc on the rest of your body because of its impact on the nervous system.
What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?
The most common symptoms related to herniated discs are back pain and numbness/tingling. If the back pain is sudden and intense, it’s a common indicator that you have suffered a herniated disc. On top of that, if the pain presents in the lower portion of the back, you likely have a herniated disc because the bottom two discs are the discs most likely to suffer herniation in a car crash.
Victims of herniated discs will also experience numbness on varying levels. The numbness might barely be noticeable or it could be debilitating, making it difficult to perform everyday activities like eating, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, walking the dog, and much more.
Is it possible to prove that a car accident led to a herniated disc?
There is no fail-safe method out there that can 100 percent effectively say that a car accident led to you suffering a herniated disc. However, the evidence acquired by a doctor in a post-accident evaluation can help pinpoint if the car accident might have led to such an injury or exacerbated a pre-existing injury.
The most important test you should undergo after being injured in a serious car crash is an MRI. The results of an MRI will tell the doctor if there is a herniated disc present, how many discs are herniated, and where they are located on the spine.
It’s safe to say that if you develop numbness or tingling in the days or weeks following the accident, and MRI results showed that you have a herniated disc, then the accident likely caused the injury in question.
Another item doctors will examine is an annular tear. This type of injury is most common in people who have suffered physical trauma and not caused by old age. So, if the MRI showed a herniated disc and an annular tear and you are suffering from numbness in an extremity, it’s most likely that the injury can be tied back to the car accident.
Will I need surgery to fix a herniated disc?
Not all herniated discs require surgery in order for them to heal properly. There are instances where car crash victims can control the pain caused by a herniated disc using physical therapy, medication, and a host of other non-surgical treatment methods.
If you do wind up needing surgery to repair the herniated disc, there are a few procedures your doctor might recommend:
- Discectomy: This procedure removes a portion of the disc so that pressure can be removed from the nerve.
- Artificial replacement of the disc: This procedure removes the damaged disc entirely and replaces it with an artificial disc (usually made of plastic or metal).
- Laminectomy: This procedure creates more space in the area of the spine where the herniated disc is located. The doctor will remove a portion of the vertebrae so that pressure can be taken off of the nerve roots.
- Fusion: This procedure is done to stabilize the spine. The doctor will insert a rod into your vertebrae to help with stabilization.
What if I already had an injury and a car accident made it worse?
It’s not uncommon for people who already suffer from ailments and injuries to be involved in car accidents and have those issues worsened. The good thing is that you will not be responsible for the damages because of your pre-existing injury. Plaintiffs in these types of cases are protected by the Eggshell Doctrine.
The Eggshell Doctrine makes the defendant responsible for all damages incurred by the plaintiff even though their frail health made them more susceptible to injury anyway. This doctrine does not take effect immediately. The plaintiff still needs to prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care and that the defendant violated that duty of care.
Did you suffer a herniated disc in an Oklahoma City car accident? The experienced and compassionate team of car accident attorneys at Cunningham & Mears will fight to protect your rights so you are compensated for your injuries. Call our office at (405) 232-1212, or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation today.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More