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Back pain after a car accident: What exactly is a herniated disk?

Medicine is full of multi-syllabic terms that are often repeated without proper explanation. One such term is "herniated disk," which is often associated with back pain.

What exactly is herniated disk? And if you have back pain or other symptoms, from a car accident or another cause, what should you do?

How Your Back Is Built

In plain English, we tend to use the word "back" rather than spine. But in more technical terms, the back is part of the spinal column, which consists of bones (vertebrae) that run from the neck down to the hips.

Muscles, tendons, cartilage and ligaments are what hold the bones together. But there is also a key role for disks, which are essentially cushions that serve as shock absorbers.

A traumatic event such as a car accident in which there is a blow to the back can cause these shock absorbers to become ruptured or cracked, causing some of the soft fluid inside to get out. The most common term for this is a herniated disc, but it can also be called a ruptured disk or a slipped disk.

The term "hernia" is another medial term that could benefit from plainer English usage. It essentially means a rupture - when part of the body extends out where it is not supposed to.

A herniated disk is not the same as a bulging disk. A bulging disk involves a disk that extends out beyond where it normally should.

Interpreting Your Symptoms

When a disk bulges or ruptures, it can press on a nerve and be very painful. If the disk that has become cracked is in neck, the pain will most likely be in the arms and shoulders. In some cases, if the ruptured disk is in the lower back, the pain can be felt down into buttocks.

Other symptoms of a ruptured disk can include numbness or a tingling sensation in the area of the body affected by the nerves that the fluid from the disc is pressing upon. A ruptured disk can also result in weakness in the affected area, which can lead to falls or other issues.

There is also the potential for complications from a disk injury. If your symptoms worsen, it may be necessary to have emergency surgery if a ruptured disk is causing compression of the nerve roots in the spinal cord, a condition that can lead to incontinence. Surgical intervention may also be needed when pain or weakness worsen so much that the ability to perform daily tasks is at risk of being lost.

Treatment Options For Back Problems

In most cases, however, surgery is not necessary to address a bulging or ruptured disk in your back. But it is important to get good medical care to tailor a plan to your specific situation.

Generally, the place to start is anti-inflammatory medication. The most common of these are of course aspirin and ibuprofen. But there are also many other drugs that can be used to mange pain, including some that require a prescription.

Physical therapy (PT) is another common way to respond effectively to back pain caused by a ruptured or bulging disk. PT typically involves doing a set of exercises recommended by a physical therapist to help the affected areas of the body heal and regain strength.

In some cases, it may also be advisable to have epidural injections directly into the affected area. Generally, however, anti-inflammatory meds and PT are the place to start in dealing with back pain after a car accident.

This is because he treatment plan depends greatly on the severity of the bulge or rupture, as well as your individual circumstances

Get a Skilled Lawyer on Your Side

Getting good medical care after a car accident is critical. This isn't the time to be macho. Don't tell an insurance adjuster you're alright when you're not sure that you are. Instead, get help after a car accident from the proven personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven M. Hanna, P.C.

Our law firm has extensive experience in back injury and car accident cases. We can supply useful information when you call, and we have access to a detailed database of doctors to follow up.

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