Herniated disc injuries are one of the lesser-known results of automobile accidents. Most people don't realize how easily a herniated disc can happen in a car accident, nor do they realize the long-term implication of that kind of injury.
If you've suffered a herniated disc in a car accident, this is what you should know.
What is a herniated disc?
Your spine actually has 33 vertebrae that run from the base of your skull all the way to your tailbone. They provide the flexibility and movement that your body has -- assuming that everything is working properly. The vertebrae themselves are bone and marrow, but they're separated from each other by discs made of very tough connective tissue with a softer, gel-like center. These discs are critical to your back's mobility.
If any of those spinal discs are crushed, broken, cracked, pushed, or knocked out of place, it can create a tremendous amount of difficulty. A "herniated" disc is another term for a disc that has slipped out of place. Not only does it cease to function properly, it can press on delicate nerves in the spine -- creating even more pain and disability than expected.
What effect does a herniated disc have?
Sometimes, you can tell you have a herniated disc because you feel the pain right where the misplaced disc is located. In other cases, the pain you feel may be located some distance away from the actual herniated disc. For example, if the herniated disc is low, you may have serious difficulty with the nerves heading down your legs. The sciatic nerve bundle can be affected. If it's affected severely enough, you may have trouble walking.
On the other hand, if your herniated disc is higher, close to the neck, it might affect the major nerve bundle that runs over your shoulder and down into your arm, controlling the movements of your hand.
The actual effect of a herniated disc is sometimes slow to manifest -- especially when it is pressing against a large nerve bundle, gradually creating a more serious problem as time goes forward.
How can a herniated disc be caused by a car accident?
Essentially, there are two ways that car accidents usually end up causing herniated discs: traumatic injury and gradual tears.
In a car accident, your upper body is usually restrained by a seat belt -- however, all of the force of that accident goes through your body when the accident happens. When the car comes to a stop, your body may still be jolted forward and slammed backward into the seat -- both of which can knock a disc out of place. The trauma may be extreme and instant, or you may have a small tear in the placement of the disc that gradually becomes worse with time. Either can leave you with chronic pain and significant disability.
If you've suffered a herniated disc injury in a car accident that wasn't your fault, talk to a personal injury attorney today.