In the hours or days immediately following a serious car accident, it can be difficult to get a proper understanding of the injuries you may have suffered. In some cases, those who have been hurt in a car accident or motor vehicle accident suffer soft tissue injuries, which do not show up in initial x-ray exams. Of these sorts of injuries, injuries the discs in the spine can be particularly painful and may require surgery and rehabilitation. This includes, but is not limited to, disc herniations. The vertebrae in the human spine are cushioned by small pads of tissue known as intervertebral discs. These discs have a tough outer layer, known as the annulus fibrosus, which contains a soft, jelly-like material known as the nucleus pulposus. Disc herniation occurs when the outer layer of the disc is broken, causing some of the softer material to bulge out. The herniation itself may not hurt, but it can place pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord, which can cause not only severe pain, but also numbness and weakness in the legs. Often times, a person with degenerative disc disease, who might be asymptomatic prior to the accident, might further injure the discs, causing severe pain.
In most cases, the best way to diagnose a herniated disc is a magnetic resonance imaging scan. An MRI scan can provide doctors with a clear view of soft tissues and can confirm a diagnosis. MRI exams are generally very expensive and often involve using a special fluid to present a contrast. These types of diagnositic testing are perfomred by hospitals in both emergency and regular clinical settings and many time insurance comapnies will argue that diagnopstic testing is whether unnessessary or too expensive. This stance by most insurance companies is the reason why contacting an experienced attorney who handles accidents to achieve a full recovery.
In some cases, those who have suffered a herniated disc can heal on their own in about six months. Doctors will typically prescribe treatment for pain or other discomfort and may recommend a physical therapy regimen to help restore and improve flexibility of the spine. Treatment might also include steroid epidural injections. In other cases, however, the disc is unable to heal on its own and surgery may be necessary. Doctors typically recommend surgery for those patients who have suffered severe damage to their nerves or those who experience significant weakness in their limbs. Generally, doctors will attempt to exhaust all non-surgical options before recommending surgery.
It is important to understand that just because symptoms may not exhibit themselves immediately after an accident does not mean that a herniated disc injury is not severe. Indeed, if surgery is necessary, it could take many months, even a year, to fully recover. Even after surgery, some patients find that they do not recover fully. Seek medical attention immediately following a car or other motor vehicle accident.