Spinal discs play a crucial role in the human body, helping to absorb shock, support the upper body, and allow us to move in a wide range of directions. These discs are both extremely tough, but vulnerable to damage. Each spinal disc is made up of a delicate jelly-like interior with a tough rubbery exterior. If the outer layer is damaged and the inner material is able to leak or bulge out, it can lead to debilitating back and leg pain.
A herniated disc can be caused by everything from a severe car accident to a slip and fall at the grocery store. This injury is notorious for two reasons: it’s relatively common and the injury can wreak havoc on a person’s life.
If you’re suffering from a herniated disc, it’s likely that you never gave much thought to movements that have now become painful. A herniated disc can make it painful or impossible to work or take care of your household. Even just sitting can be painful when you are dealing with a spinal disc injury.
If you are currently suffering from a herniated disc, you’ve already had expensive and time-consuming treatments. Or you know you need them but have no idea how you’ll pay for them. If another party caused your herniated disc, you could get compensation for the damages caused by your injury. An experienced Chicago back and neck injury attorney can help you get the most for your injury claim. So you can heal and get on with your life.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
In the simplest of terms, a herniated disk refers to damage to one of the rubbery disks that sit between the individual vertebrae that stack to make up your spine. It develops when one of the cushioning discs between the vertebral bones is torn or ruptured.
The thick, protective layer of a disc is known as the annulus. It encases a soft, gelatinous substance in the center known as the nucleus pulposus. When the annulus is torn, the soft part of the disc protrudes through the outer wall.
A herniated disc is sometimes referred to as a ‘slipped disc’ or a ‘ruptured disc’. It is also often confused with a bulging disc. While similar, a bulging disc only affects the outer layer, or annulus.
A herniated disc is painful because, as it protrudes outward, it aggravates nearby sensitive nerves. This pressure on the nerves can lead to swelling and all kinds of other problems.
Nerves communicate to every part of our bodies. So pain from a herniated disc can travel just about anywhere in the body. The most common place people with a herniated disc feel pain, other than their back, is in their arms and legs as it radiates outward through the nervous system.
Causes of Herniated Discs
A herniated disc can be caused by any type of trauma to the spine. If your spine sustains sudden impact or is twisted beyond its limits, the discs between the vertebrae can rupture.
Herniated discs are not only caused by devastating accidents. Even a relatively minor incident can force a disc out of place.
According to hospital surveys, some of the most common reasons people suffer a herniated disc include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents (i.e. Car accidents, Motorcycle Accidents, Truck Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents, etc)
- Slip and Fall Incidents
- Workplace Accidents
- Sports Injuries
- Construction Accidents
Symptoms of Herniated Disc
Herniated discs commonly cause general pain symptoms–pain, tingling, and numbness–which can be misdiagnosed as a lesser injury at first. Usually, herniated discs are discovered through further testing like an MRI, CT scan, or myelogram.
Herniated discs are most common in the lower spine. But they can occur to any part of the spine.
In cases of herniated discs in the lower back, pain tends to shoot through the legs and buttocks. Herniated discs in the neck or upper back usually affect the arms and shoulders.
Pain from a disc herniation is most often pronounced when you’re active. However, it can be persistent when you’re just sitting or standing still.
Muscle weakness is another common symptom of a herniated disc. This can cause your legs or arms to suddenly give out when you’re walking or carrying something heavy.
Despite these common symptoms, there is also a nearly endless list of ways a herniated disc can affect you. Because damage to a spinal disc can affect the spinal cord and surrounding nerves, almost any part of your body can feel pain or have an adverse reaction while you are dealing with the injury.
Chronic Pain May Limit Abilities and Enjoyment of Life
Herniated discs can potentially lead to more severe problems such as cauda equina syndrome. Cauda equina syndrome develops when nerve damage leads to the loss of control over bowel movements.
Chronic pain associated with a herniated disc can also stop you from doing the things you love, like playing with your children and doing your favorite hobby. Taking your children to the park or walking your dog can become obstacles rather than enjoyable activities.
Chronic pain from a herniated disc can also jeopardize your income. If your pain impacts your ability to perform your job, you could be forced to take time off or to take a lower-paying position that’s easier on your body. Since a herniated disc can cause pain both while you are engaging in physical activity or just sitting, it can hinder almost every type of career.
Treatments for a Herniated Disc
Herniated discs can be treated with prescription pain medication, over-the-counter drugs, or a combination of the two. Your doctor may suggest a common drug like ibuprofen to help control inflammation. Or you may need something stronger while the injury heals or is being repaired. Unfortunately, prescription pain killers come with their own set of risks. Patients who legitimately need prescription painkillers can become dependent in as little as 5 days. Up to 12% of patients taking pain killer medications develop a full addiction. For this reason, prescription pain medications should be closely monitored by your doctors and always taken as prescribed.
Muscle relaxers can also provide pain relief for a herniated disc. Their most common use is to treat the muscle spasms and tension that come with a spinal injury. The downside to muscle relaxers is that they’re sedatives. This means that they can hinder your ability to drive or perform job-related tasks.
Physical therapy is another common treatment for herniated disks. Deep tissue massages are one form of therapy used to treat muscle spasms and nerve pressure associated with back pain. Cold therapy is also used to target muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation, while heat therapy encourages healthy blood flow.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
TENS is a form of therapy that uses electrical stimulation on the muscles to reduce spasms. The electrical impulses produced by TENS can reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain, which may help relieve pain and relax muscles.
Epidural Steroid Injections
These injections are delivered close to pinched nerves in the spine. Therapeutic injections can control pain, reduce inflammation, improve mobility, and allow a patient to participate in and make progress with their physical therapy and rehabilitation programs.
Unfortunately, non-invasive treatments are not always enough. For many patients, surgery will eventually become a requirement to repair a herniated disc. Severe herniated discs can leave your back unstable and/or in an excruciating amount of pain. The type of surgery required will vary, but some common types include spinal fusion surgery, laminotomy, discectomy, and artificial disc surgery.
Get Compensation with the Help of a Chicago Back and Neck Injury Lawyer
If another person’s actions caused your herniated disc, you can pursue a claim against that party so that you can recover compensation for your damages. You may be eligible for compensation for any damages your injury causes. That includes medical treatment, surgeries, physical therapy, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
If you’re suffering from a back or neck injury that was caused by someone else’s negligent actions, Abels & Annes can help you to hold them accountable. We’ve secured maximum compensation for countless clients with herniated disc injuries. And we can help you too.