Ruptured Disc Injuries from a Car Accident

Back injuries are not uncommon in a car accident. Although most heal with time, for some the recovery can be much longer. A specific type of back injury that an individual can sustain in a car accident is a ruptured disc.

What is a ruptured disc and what are the symptoms?

Also known as a herniated or slipped disc, this condition is a result of trauma to the spine or spinal cord. In between the vertebrae (spinal bones) are discs. The outer portion of the disc is durable, with a gel-like substance on the inside. When there is an injury to the back, it can cause the inner material to push through the rigid outer disc causing great pain.

As a result, the ruptured disc can put pressure on nearby nerves in the spinal column which can cause:

  • pain;
  • weakness;
  • tingling; or
  • numbness in the limbs or other parts of the body.

These injury may affect the lower back (lumbar), the mid- to upper back (thoracic) or neck (cervical). Sometimes there are no symptoms.

When symptoms do manifest, they may affect a certain portion of the body. For instance, if the ruptured disc occurs in the neck, the individual could feel pain or numbness in the shoulders, chest and arms. Or if it occurs to the lower back, these symptoms could occur in the buttocks, legs and feet.

Certain, simple, daily movements can exacerbate pain such as:

  • bending backward;
  • lifting an arm;
  • standing; and
  • sitting.

If it’s severe, there may be a complete lack of mobility.

How is a ruptured disc diagnosed and treated?

When someone has been in a car accident and is experiencing back pain, the doctor will perform a physical examination. A description of symptoms can help when diagnosing a ruptured disc.

If the injury appears to be serious, the doctor may order an MRI to confirm the diagnosis and severity of the condition. There are other diagnostic tests that doctors might run to rule out other problems as well.

Noninvasive treatments are usually tried first. Rest and limited movement and activity is typically recommended. Medication may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and/or pain. Muscle relaxants can help with back spasms. Physical therapy is generally another component of treatment. Exercises will focus on increasing flexibility and strengthening muscles.

When these treatment methods don’t work, steroid injections may be given in the location of the ruptured disc. Oftentimes this can alleviate pain for several weeks or months.

But when these forms of treatment still don’t bring relief or the injury is severe, it could require surgery. This may involve a discectomy where part or all of the disc is removed.

Many people are able to resume normal activities after treatment. However, some still experience chronic pain or face additional surgeries and/or rehabilitation. When the prognosis isn’t clear, it’s best to wait before settling a car accident claim.

Talking with an attorney can help an injured person learn about legal options available and the types of damages recoverable in a specific case. If a car accident caused your herniated disc and/or spinal pain, see our guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Colorado Injury Case.

D.J. Banovitz’ career has always concentrated on trial practice and he has litigated hundreds of cases. His passion and sole career focus has been to seek justice for people suffering from personal injuries as the result of someone else’s negligence. The hallmark of the Law Office of D.J. Banovitz, is the total commitment to professionalism, quality, and personalized care of your injury case. D.J. has dedicated his professional life to helping those most in need and is a proud and active member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. His experience includes volunteering for Colorado Rural Legal Services in Montrose, the Colorado Aids Project, consumer law, family law, criminal defense, and Alternative Defense Counsel for juveniles in Denver.