Herniated Disc: Causes, Symptoms, and Complications

November 28, 2022 | David Abels
Herniated Disc: Causes, Symptoms, and Complications

Discs in the human spinal cord play a very important role. They support an individual’s upper body, help them absorb shock, and move their bodies in different directions. Although these discs are extremely tough, they may suffer serious damage in a forceful car accident.

Spinal discs have several layers, the outermost of which is tough and rubbery. However, if the disc’s outer layer sustains damage in an accident, it may bulge out. As a result, an accident victim may suffer significant leg and back pain.

Herniated discs often happen in serious car accidents where the collision force knocks the accident victim’s body around the interior of their vehicle. These injuries are equally common when accident victims suffer serious back injuries in a slip-and-fall accident, such as at a restaurant or grocery store.

Herniated disc injuries can cause ongoing medical complications, sometimes requiring accident victims to undergo surgery and other expensive medical treatment. Accident victims may also suffer extreme pain from a herniated disc that can last for the rest of their lives. Even sitting down or driving a vehicle for a long time may hurt if the accident victim suffers a severe enough disc injury.

If you suffered a disc injury in a motor vehicle crash, slip and fall, or some other accident that resulted from another person’s negligence, you have legal options available to you.

First, a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area can investigate the circumstances of your accident and determine your eligibility for filing a claim or lawsuit seeking damages. If you are eligible, your lawyer can file the necessary claim or lawsuit to pursue monetary damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Your spinal cord injury lawyer will do everything they can to help you maximize your monetary damages and recover the compensation you deserve for your disc injuries.

What Is a Herniated Disc?

When a person suffers a herniated disc in an accident, they typically experience damage to one of the rubbery discs sitting between two or more vertebrae going up and down their spine. This condition typically develops when one of the discs that sit between bones making up the spinal column becomes ruptured or torn.

The annulus is the thickest disc layer and encases a softer substance called the nucleus pulposus. Whenever the annulus portion of the disc suffers a tear, the soft portion may stick out through the outer wall, becoming a ruptured—or slipped—disc.

This condition differs from a disc bulge that affects only the annulus, or the outermost disc layer.

There is no disputing that a herniated disc may cause an accident victim to experience significant pain. These conditions are painful because when the disc protrudes, it tends to affect nearby nerves, which are extremely sensitive. This nerve pressure may cause an accident victim to experience swelling and other serious problems.

Moreover, since nerves send communications throughout a person’s body, a herniated disc may cause an accident victim to experience all sorts of pain. In addition to back pain, the accident victim may suffer extreme pain in their legs and arms.

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How Do Herniated Discs Happen?

A herniated disc may result from any type of spinal trauma. This is especially true when an accident causes a person’s spinal column to twist and turn in an unnatural direction. When this occurs, one or more discs located at various levels on the spinal column may rupture. Although herniated discs can result from relatively minor accidents, these injuries also occur when accident victims suffer injuries in major accidents.

Some common accidents that lead to herniated disc injuries include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents, such as car crashes, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, motorcycle accidents, and bicycle accidents, where one vehicle strikes another, causing serious property damage and injuries to the vehicle occupants
  • Slip and fall accidents, where a property owner fails to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition at all times, causing a visitor to fall on the ground—often landing on their neck or back
  • Sports injuries, especially for individuals who play contact sports, like basketball or football, fall to the ground.

Potential Herniated Disc Symptoms

Herniated discs often have extremely painful symptoms that can last the rest of the accident victim’s life. The symptoms that an accident victim may experience typically depend upon how their back and spinal cord move and twist during the accident.

In general, herniated disc injuries come with symptoms much like those associated with bulging discs, fractured vertebrae, sprains, strains, and whiplash. Some of the most common symptoms associated with herniated discs include numbness, tingling, and extreme pain. In some instances, healthcare providers mistake these symptoms for less serious injuries. However, the herniated disc may become apparent when the accident victim undergoes a CT scan or MRI.

In most instances, accident victims sustain herniated discs in the lower portion of their spine. However, they can occur in any area of the spinal cord.

When a person suffers a herniated disc in their lower back, they tend to experience pain in their buttocks that radiates down to their legs. When they suffer a herniated disc in the upper portion of their back, including the neck, they may experience pain in their shoulders and arms.

No matter where the herniated disc is, accident victims typically experience the most pain when they are active. However, they may suffer pain in their upper or lower back if they must sit still for a long period, such as when driving or riding in a vehicle on a long road trip.

Another common symptom associated with herniated discs is muscular weakness. For example, when an individual is moving, their arms or legs may suddenly give out and cease functioning. Finally, since herniated discs typically involve nerves that transmit pain to various areas of the body, an individual suffering from a herniated disc can experience pain in any bodily region due to their injury.

If you believe you suffered a herniated disc or other serious neck and back injury in your accident, you should seek prompt medical treatment immediately. You can follow up with a primary care doctor or seek treatment at a hospital emergency room or local urgent care facility. Generally speaking, the sooner you seek this treatment after your accident, the better off you will be. This is because herniated disc injuries often worsen the longer they remain untreated.

At an emergency medical facility, the medical provider on duty can thoroughly examine you and order the necessary imaging studies to diagnose your medical condition. Moreover, the doctor can refer you to a specialist, such as a chiropractor, neurologist, or another provider, for ongoing medical treatment after your initial visit.

Common Limitations that Accident Victims Experience from Herniated Discs

Accident victims who suffer herniated discs may experience numerous limitations. In some cases, a herniated disc can cause a much more serious problem called cauda equina syndrome. This syndrome may develop when a person cannot control their bowel movements due to nerve damage from a herniated disc.

Herniated disc disease also comes with chronic pain and ongoing symptoms. These symptoms can prevent you from participating in activities you once enjoyed before your accident. Those activities may include playing sports, engaging in recreational activities, and spending time with your children and grandchildren. After suffering a herniated disc injury, small tasks like taking your grandchildren to the park or walking your dog can be a harrowing experience.

In addition to the lost quality of life, herniated disc injuries may affect your ability to earn an income. ‘[‘This is especially true if you have to take time off work to recover from your injuries—or to attend medical and physical therapy appointments. Moreover, if your job requires manual labor, you may need to switch positions or take a pay cut due to your accident-related back injuries.

Potential Treatments for Herniated Disc Injuries

If you suffered a herniated disc injury in an accident that resulted from someone else’s negligence, there are several types of treatments that you can undergo for relief. These treatments can help control inflammation, make you feel stronger, and help you partake in activities you once enjoyed. First, you can take common over-the-counter drugs, like ibuprofen, to control inflammation from a herniated desk.

At other times, your doctor may prescribe pain medication to control your symptoms. However, these medications often cause patients to become dependent. In fact, this dependence can happen in as little as five days. Consequently, doctors have a duty to monitor their patients when they prescribe them pain medication on a regular, ongoing basis.

Herniated disc sufferers might also take muscle relaxers for pain relief. These drugs treat muscle spasms connected with herniated discs. However, the downside to these medications is that they may make the accident victim sleepy and prevent them from driving or operating heavy machinery while at their job.

Physical therapy can also significantly help a herniated disc injury. Some of the most common types of PT therapists use to treat this condition include deep tissue massages, cold therapy, and aqua therapy.

Sometimes, a medical provider can supply you with a TENS unit. These units use electrical stimulation to reduce muscular spasms. Using these devices often helps to reduce spasms and significantly relieve pain in the neck or back.

Accident victims who suffer herniated discs can also receive epidural steroid injections. People typically receive these injections in the lower part of their back. However, individuals may risk suffering other complications when they undergo these injections.

Finally, you can undergo a surgical procedure to correct your herniated disc injury as a last resort. Several types of surgeries may be available, including artificial disc surgery and spinal fusion surgery—both of which are invasive medical procedures that can lead to longer recovery times.

Your medical provider can help you make an informed decision about the best medical treatment to undergo to treat your accident-related herniated disc injury. Your personal injury lawyer can help you pay for those treatments and recover compensation for your pain and suffering by filing a lawsuit for you.

Deadline to File a Personal Injury Claim or Lawsuit for a Herniated Disc

Accident victims who suffer herniated disc injuries have a very limited time period in which to file their personal injury claim or lawsuit for damages. The time clock begins to run on the date of your accident and ends exactly two years later—to the day. If you file your personal injury claim after the deadline expires, in almost all circumstances, you will no longer be eligible to recover damages of any kind. Therefore, you should retain a knowledgeable car accident attorney to represent you as soon as possible after your accident.

Potential Damages You Can Recover Financially for a Herniated Disc Injury

Accident victims who suffer one or more herniated discs might be eligible to recover several types of damages, including compensation for their related medical expenses—and lost wages if they need to miss work time. Other potential damages that accident victims may recover include compensation for loss of earning capacity, inconvenience, mental distress, past and future pain and suffering, loss of the ability to use a body part, loss of life enjoyment, and loss of spousal companionship and consortium.

Call a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney Near You Today

Dave Abels Personal Injury Lawyer

If you suffered a herniated disc injury in an accident that someone else caused, you might be eligible to recover various monetary damages. An experienced and compassionate personal injury lawyer in your area can explain your legal rights and options to help you maximize the monetary damages you recover for your herniated disc injury.

You should focus on your physical recovery and keeping up with your medical treatment. Trying to navigate an injury insurance claim or lawsuit is not something you want to add to your plate. Instead, put your case in the hands of an experienced injury lawyer who handles cases like yours. You have nothing to lose by scheduling a no-cost consultation and case evaluation as soon as possible.

Abels & Annes, P.C.

Address: 100 N LaSalle St #1710,
Chicago, IL 60602

Phone: (855) 529-2442
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David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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