What Is a Herniated Disc?
Auto accidents, slip and falls, and other things that have the potential to cause injury may leave people stranded physically, emotionally, and financially. Their injuries may cause them to miss work, miss out on activities, or otherwise suffer a severe blow to their quality of life. One of the injuries that can seriously impact an individual for years is a herniated disc as the result of a spinal injury.
The bones that form the spine (vertebrae) are cushioned by gelatinous, or spongy, discs. These act as shock absorbers and keep the spine flexible. When they are damaged, they may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated disc, or a slipped or ruptured disc.
An injury may cause tears or cracks in the outer layer of the disc. The gel can be forced out of these ruptures, and cause the disc to break open, bulge, or break into pieces.
Disc herniations usually affect the lower back, sometimes the neck, and rarely the upper back. When a herniation occurs, it presses on the nerves where it causes pain, weakness, or numbness to the area that injured nerve travels to. However, if the herniated disc is not pressing on a nerve, the individual may simply have garden variety back pain, or even no pain at all. In other cases, this pain can be excruciating.
The most severe pain should ease within a couple of weeks of the accident. In four to six weeks, the pain may be so minimal that medical attention is not sought by the injured person. Options to relieve the pain include pain medication, cold and heat therapy, electrical stimulation, traction, and stretching exercises.
If the pain is still severe, after several weeks, some people with herniated discs will have to have surgery. This is usually minimally invasive, but will still take time to recover from.
In most cases, the area of the spine that herniates will shrink over time. If you are not experiencing numbness or loss of bowel or bladder control, then your chances for a complete recovery without the need of a doctor are good. However, both numbness and incontinence are signs of a more serious herniation and will need medical attention to determine if surgery is necessary.
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80 to 90 percent of people with herniated discs will return to a normal life and are able to control the pain. However, for a small number of people the numbness and pain may never completely vanish.
The fact is, even if your herniated disc seems to feel better after a month or so, that is still a month where you had to take time out of your busy schedule to cope with it. If this is the result of another person’s negligence, you may be able to seek compensation.