Herniated discs cause more than back pain. At their worst, herniated discs can permanently disable you with pain, loss of sensation, and weakness in your arms or legs.
Any kind of accident can damage your discs. And once these discs are damaged, doctors have no low-risk treatment options for getting you back on your feet.
Here are some facts about bulging and herniated discs and the compensation you might pursue for their effects.
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What Does Your Spine Do?
Your spine provides structure to your back. It also provides flexibility to allow your back muscles to twist and bend your body. Finally, your spine protects your central nervous system by enclosing your spinal cord.
Everyone has 33 vertebrae at birth. By adulthood, several of these vertebrae fuse to leave 24 vertebrae. These bones stack on top of each other like blocks.
When it needs to provide structure and strength, the vertebrae cooperate to form a column running up the center of your back. But when it needs to provide flexibility, these bones can articulate.
The intervertebral discs play a key role in both situations. Discs of fibrous cartilage sit between vertebrae. When your back needs strength and structure, the discs cushion the vertebrae. Since they have a pliable texture, they can absorb shocks.
When your back needs flexibility, the discs provide a smooth joint for the vertebrae to move. The smooth surface allows the spine to bend and twist without the vertebrae grinding on each other.
How Do Ruptured, Bulging, and Herniated Discs Happen?
The discs have two parts. The outer annulus surrounds the interior nucleus. The annulus has a tough, fibrous texture made from collagen fibers and protein. The nucleus has a gel-like consistency made from water and loose collagen. Together, the annulus and nucleus form a flat, cylindrical disc that sits between adjacent vertebrae.
Like all body parts, your discs can get injured. Disc damage usually happens in three forms:
A ruptured disc happens when the disc weakens and radial cracks form. These cracks run from the center of the disc to its edge.
Ruptured discs can result from trauma. But the most common cause of ruptured discs is age. As you age, the collagen in your discs dries out. Cracks form and radiate.
Ruptured discs can also result from overuse. Small cracks form, typically because of drying, and propagate with repeated stress on the back.
Bulging discs occur when the collagen in the annulus weakens but does not tear. Instead, the middle of the disc bulges. You can visualize a bulging disc as having a barrel shape rather than a cylinder shape.
Bulging discs can result from disc compression due to trauma, overuse, or degeneration.
Herniated discs happen when the collagen in the annulus weakens and allows the fibers in the annulus to separate. The nucleus herniates through the separated fibers and forms a bump on the side of the disc.
Discs can herniate when subjected to trauma. They can also herniate under repetitive stresses or degeneration.
What Are the Risk Factors for Herniated Discs?
The health of your discs depends on many factors, including:
Trauma can damage the discs. Specifically, a trauma that results in disc compression can cause the discs to crack, bulge, or leak.
Falls, including elevated falls and slip and falls, can stress your back. The stress can damage the spinal discs.
Car accidents create the type of forces that often damage discs. When you hit something, you decelerate rapidly. Your body gets thrown forward, backward, or to the side. But since a seat belt constrains your hips, your spine hyperextends.
When your body comes to a stop, your spine rebounds and compresses. This hyperextension and compression experienced by your spine can fracture vertebrae, compress discs, and tear ligaments and tendons.
Older people have less pliable discs due to dehydration. Seniors have a higher risk of bulging, ruptured, or herniated discs.
Greater body weight means more stress on the discs. Obesity is a particular risk when combined with repetitive motions. People with jobs that require long periods of standing, walking, carrying, or lifting can damage their discs over time.
Degenerative Disc Disease
If you previously suffered a back injury, you have a higher risk of a herniated disc. While the body can rebuild cartilage, it does so very slowly. In most situations, your daily activities will cause damage to your discs that accumulates over time. The accumulated damage can cause the disc to eventually rupture, bulge, or herniate.
What Are the Symptoms of Herniated Discs?
Herniated discs will cause back pain and instability. Your back might feel weak, and the damaged disc may limit your range of back motion.
However, the most severe symptoms of herniated discs occur when the damaged disc compresses the spinal cord.
Your spinal cord carries all the nerve signals between your body and your brain. Motor signals from the brain to your muscles and organs travel down the spinal cord. Sensory signals from your skin and organs travel up the spinal cord.
When the spinal cord gets compressed, the nerves inflame. The inflammation causes the nerves to misfire.
Some symptoms of spinal cord compression include:
- Radiating pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Burning sensations
- Loss of dexterity
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Sexual dysfunction
Doctors do not have good options for treating herniated discs. They can treat the nerves with anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the symptoms. But this treatment only provides temporary relief.
Doctors can operate on the damaged disc. One option is to remove the damaged disc and fuse the adjacent vertebrae with plates and screws. This can relieve the pressure on the spinal cord, but it can stress the remaining discs and vertebrae. Oftentimes, you will need a second spinal fusion.
Another option is to replace the damaged disc. This surgery comes with a lot of risks, including dislocation of the artificial disc and loss of back flexibility.
What Compensation Can I Seek for Herniated Discs?
If someone’s negligence caused your disc injury, you could seek compensation. This compensation will cover your economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages. It will also compensate you for your non-economic damages, like physical pain and inability to engage in activities.
Disc injuries can require substantial treatment while leaving you with permanent pain and disabilities. As a result, you could seek substantial compensation for your losses.
Contact a Fort Worth Personal Injury Attorney for Help
If you were in an accident caused by someone’s negligence and suffered a herniated disc injury, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. To discuss the compensation you may seek for your herniated discs, contact today Stephens Law Firm, PLLC for a free consultation with a Fort Worth personal injury attorney.