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Are You Suffering from a Herniated Disc After a Car Accident?

A herniated disc is one of the most excruciatingly painful injuries you can suffer in an Indiana car accident. These injuries can involve chronic pain, numbness, mobility issues, and temporary or permanent paralysis. Nationally, whiplash, caused by a jolt that whips the head back and forth, is among the most common injuries suffered by car accident victims, and it often leads to herniated discs. 

If you’ve suffered this type of severe spinal injury, please read the information below. You could be entitled to valuable compensation that reduces your stress and supports your recovery from the accident.

What is a Herniated Disc and How Does it Happen?

The body’s discs are flexible areas in the spine sandwiched between the vertebrae. Typically, these discs remain fixed in place, providing support and cushioning the back as it moves.

A herniated disc occurs when the soft internal structure of the disc pushes out through a tear in its outer casing. This can happen over time due to a repetitive stress injury or it can occur abruptly due to trauma, as in a car accident.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 5-20 new cases of herniated discs per every 1,000 people are diagnosed each year. They are more common in men than women and occur most often in those in their twenties to forties. Discs can be herniated in various areas of the spine:

  • Cervical (neck)

Herniated or bulging discs in this area can cause pain to radiate down into the shoulder or arm.

  • Thoracic (upper and middle part of the back)

Herniated or bulging discs in this can cause pain in the mid back, but also around the rib cage. In severe cases, spinal compression can cause weakness in the legs and loss of bowel or bladder control.

  • Lumbar (lower part of the back between the ribs and pelvis) 

Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine. This is because the vertebrae there are larger, have to absorb more force, and are more mobile. Herniated or bulging discs in this area can cause pain that shoots down the buttocks and leg (sciatica). It can also cause weakness, numbness, loss of bowel or bladder control, and difficulty walking.

It’s important to know that the symptoms of a herniated disc can be minor or even invisible at first. The disc’s structure weakens and begins to cause painful and chronic symptoms that can severely limit the person’s mobility. Failing to address a herniated disc promptly can lead to permanent disability and chronic pain.

Herniated disc symptoms may include:

  • Weakness in the limbs
  • Numbness, tingling, and burning sensations
  • Radiating back pain
  • Thigh, buttock, or leg pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control
  • Paralysis

How to Handle a Herniated Disc Injury

One of the best ways to address a herniated disc injury is to seek a full medical evaluation as soon as possible after a car accident. You’ll need proper diagnostic tests plus a qualified doctor’s insight to ensure you’re not at risk of a herniated disc.

Although you may have x-rays as part of your post-accident assessment, x-rays can’t detect herniated discs. If this is the only type of testing you’ve received at the ER or in your doctor’s office, request additional tests for a herniated disc.

Your doctor may diagnose a herniated disc in several ways: 

  • You will be checked for back tenderness.
  • Your doctor will ask you to move your arms and legs in certain directions to see not only your range of motion but also your level of pain and which movements provoke pain.
  • X-rays (not to detect a herniated disc, but to rule out any other structural back injuries).
  • CT (computed tomography) scans can provide cross-sectional images of the spinal column. Sometimes dye is injected into the spinal fluid before a CT scan. (This is called a myelogram). It can show pressure on the spinal cord or on the nerves. 
  • MRI scans (which use strong magnets) are the tests used most often to identify and find the location of bulging or herniated discs. They are 95% accurate.
  • In some cases, doctors use nerve tests to measure electrical impulses or EMG (electromyography) to measure electrical impulses and their effects on muscles. 

Your herniated disc may be treated in several ways:

  1. Rest for 1-3 days.
  2. Pain medications:
    • These may include nonprescription medications, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium. 
    • They may also include painkillers that require prescriptions, such as gabapentin, pregabalin, or duloxetine.
    • In some cases (although – because of the risk of side effects and/or addiction – they are understandably reluctant), doctors may prescribe short-term opioids, such as codeine or an oxycodone combination.
  3. Muscle relaxers:
    • These don’t address nerve pain, but they can help with muscle spasms.
  4. Cortisone injections:
    • These can reduce inflammation around the herniated disc, alleviating some of the pressure on the nerves that cause pain. 
    • Effects can last for days, weeks, or even longer, which can allow you to be able to undergo physical therapy.
  1. Physical therapy:
    • If your doctor suggests therapy to deal with the pain and weakness from your herniated discs, look for a qualified OCS (orthopedic clinical specialist) or NCS (neurologic clinical specialist).
    • You will be trained in exercises that are specific to your individual injury (remember that there are 33 vertebrae, and your disc may protrude between any of them in any direction). 
    • The goal will be to strengthen your core and relieve pressure on your spinal nerves. 
  1. Surgery:
    • If pain and other symptoms persist for more than six weeks, and if the quality of your life is impacted, you may be a candidate for surgery. 
    • There are several types of surgery available, depending on where your disc injury is located.
    • Options range from minimally invasive laminectomy or discectomy all the way to artificial disc surgery and spinal fusion (both of which require general anesthesia and a stay of several days in the hospital).

It’s vital to start building a paper trail about your accident. Save all your medical bills and request copies of your medical records related to the crash. Also, save forms of your medications, copays, and costs like wrappings and crutches.

Unfortunately, insurance companies are notorious for providing lowball settlement offers. You should contact an experienced car accident attorney if your herniated disc claim has been denied or if the insurance company insists that your injury wasn’t a direct result of your motor vehicle accident. 

Make sure not to sign any medical authorization release or to provide a recorded statement of any kind without consulting with your attorney. 

Be careful who you talk to about the accident. Before discussing your accident with an insurance representative or anyone else, contact a qualified Indiana car accident attorney who handles cases with herniated discs. This is a complex area of the law that requires significant experience.

Act Quickly

Just as you should take action with a medical professional quickly to find out if your back pain is a result of a slipped, bulging, or herniated disc, you should also seek legal advice quickly. You may need to take legal action against the person responsible for your accident. 

Indiana’s statute of limitations (IC 34-11-2-4) allows you only 2 years to file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver after the date of your accident. The sooner you act, the better; it is always more difficult to collect evidence or eyewitness accounts after time has passed.

How Crossen Law Firm Benefits Your Herniated Disc Case

When you have a herniated disc from a car accident, you need excellent legal representation as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you seek adequate medical treatment, preserve time-sensitive evidence, and ensure that you meet important legal deadlines.

Having the right lawyer also eases your stress. A lawyer can work with the police, deal with the demands from the insurance company, dig up details that others have missed, and look out for your best interests throughout your case.

Crossen Law Firm is here to help when you’re suffering from a herniated disc and the many other impacts a car accident has on your life. We’ll offer you a free consultation so you can move your case forward as quickly as possible.

Herniated Disc? Call an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney

The Crossen Law Firm legal team has the experience to handle your herniated disc case in Indiana. We care about obtaining results for our clients and we care about you personally. We want to help you secure the compensation that you’re owed for your herniated disc.

Contact us at 317-401-8626 to schedule a free consultation about your case.