It’s not just cars that have shock absorbers. The human body has built-in shock absorbers in the form of cartilage, located throughout the body to protect bones and joints from wear and tear. The bones of the spine are stacked one on top of the other, and each joint is held together with small ligaments. The cartilage between each of these joints is what makes the back flexible. Without them, the spinal cord would be fused, and it wouldn’t be possible to bend, reach up, run, climb or twist in any of the motions that we use to swim, throw a ball, dance, or any one of a thousand things we do every day. In the spinal cord area, these pieces of cartilage between the various vertebrae are called discs, and Portland personal injury attorneys know that a bulging disc, particularly in the lower back area, is a common occurrence after a rear-impact car accident.
What is a bulging disc?
When a piece of cartilage in the back is protruding either to the side of the spinal cord, or backwards, the injury is referred to as a bulging disc. While this type of injury is more commonly found in the lower back, they can also occur, quite painfully, in the neck, particularly in cases where the victim has suffered whiplash. People who have been injured in a car or motorcycle accident, or those who have fallen awkwardly, would be vulnerable to this type of spinal cord damage.
How do bulging disks occur during accidents?
The lower back is normally shaped in a smooth S-curve. When the body is involved in sudden and violent deceleration, such as frequently happens in car accidents, the spine is flexed forward and tremendous stress is placed along the lower spine in particular. Wearing a seat belt actually does little to prevent this type of injury (but Portland personal injury attorneys advise to always, always wear one when traveling in any vehicle), because when the body is forced forward, it pivots on the seat belt, adding abnormal force against the spine. When the cartilage can’t withstand the pressure, it pops out of place. In such cases, the injury is often referred to as a slipped disc.
Bulging Disc Symptoms
There are major differences between a slipped or bulging disc and a back muscle strain, even though the symptoms may start out the same. Both are exceptionally painful, and the sufferer will experience decreased mobility. Where a slipped disc is involved, the patient will often feel sharp or shooting pains that travel down from the back into the leg, perhaps all the way down to the ankle and foot. They may also feel a sense of numbness in a lower limb, or a sense of weakness. In most cases, a medical practitioner will advise bed rest and an analgesic. If these are successful in making the pain go away, then it’s extremely likely that a slipped disc is not the culprit. If, however, symptoms persist or worsen, a closer investigation will be required.
Finding the Damage for Diagnosis
If rest and mild medication aren’t effective, Portland personal injury attorneys will want a doctor to get x-rays of the back, to make sure none of the bones are fractured. Unfortunately, standard x-rays will not give a clear indication of whether the patient has a bulging disc. To take a really close look, an MRI will be required. This will show the doctor exactly what kind of damage has been done to the cartilage and nerves in the spinal cord region.
Treatment options for personal injury victims
If the nerves around the spinal cord do not appear to be injured, the doctor may advise simply leaving the disc alone and waiting to see if the pain diminishes. If patients are careful, the disc may very well stay where it is, and while not in its ideal position, a patient can often lead a perfectly normal life, even with the disc slightly out of place. In some cases, surgery will be required, in which case the disc will be either partially or completely removed. Recent advances in the treatment of bulging disc injuries have seen the development of a new synthetic cartilage. This soft, flexible plastic substitute is inserted directly into the same area the injured disc occupied. Though still in its early stages, this type of treatment is receiving encouraging reviews, because the synthetic disc appears to permit normal movement, and patients’ backs are healing quickly after surgery. Another positive aspect to this type of surgery is that symptoms are relieved extremely quickly, and though physicians recommend extreme caution for an extended period after this type of surgery, results have been encouraging.
Any type of injury that happens as a result of a car crash, motorcycle accident or slip and fall is frightening and painful, but damage to the spinal cord region is especially traumatic. If you live in Oregon and have suffered such an injury, you should immediately seek medical attention. Then speak to one of the experienced Portland personal injury attorneys who will explain in clear terms what your legal options are regarding insurance claims and compensation.