A lot of people talk about pain from slipped or herniated discs, especially after a car accident or work-related injury. However, not many know what a disc is, or how to differentiate between different disc injuries. To understand these misunderstood injuries, we spoke with spine expert Dr. Matthew Richardson of Peach Tree Spine Physicians. Here's what we learned about the different types, symptoms and treatments for disc injuries.
Bulge, herniation or facet injury?
Discs are soft circular pieces of ligament located between bones in the spine that act as the bones' shock absorber. There are two different types of disc injuries:
- Disc bulge: When the disc is squished, causing some pain.
- Disc herniation: When a disc is ruptured and the internal material comes out. There are different degrees of herniation ranging from a small amount of the disc protruding all the way to a piece of the disc breaking off.
According to Dr. Richardson, some people who consult with him for disc injuries are actually suffering from pain in the facet joints, which are located near the spine. This is more common with people suffering from neck and shoulder pain.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Dr. Richardson says that any back pain could be a disc injury. Numbness, tingling sensations and pain, especially pain radiating from the back down the legs, are all symptoms of disc injuries.
MRIs are the standard for disc pain diagnosis, but they don't always show smaller disc tears or facet joint issues. That's why Dr. Richardson emphasizes the importance of obtaining a patient history and doing a physical exam where he can look for the following symptoms:
- Asymmetric reflexes
- Decreased sensations
- Muscle spasms
- Step off/ spondylollisthesis
- Positive SLR/ Spurlings
The three most common treatments for disc injuries are:
- Medications: anti-inflammatory drugs/ muscle relaxers
- Rehabilitation: physical therapy, chiropractic and massages
- Injections: small dosages applied directly to the site of the pain
For facet joint injuries, injections can be very helpful. Unfortunately, for severe disc injuries, surgery is necessary. This is required for severe herniation symptoms such as weakness, pain that gets progressively worse, paralysis or if the disc is pushing on the nerves. During this procedure, surgeons carefully remove the escaped piece of the disc without disturbing the main disc.
What to do next
Disc injuries might be common, but that doesn't mean they aren't serious. They require full medical, attention including MRIs, physical examinations and at times even surgery. If a surprise car accident or work injury caused your disc or facet injury, you might not have the funds to pay for the diagnostic doctors visit, let alone continued care. That's when you need to call the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates.
We understand the toll a disc injury can have on you, both mentally and physically. We deal with the insurance companies and let you focus on treatment and recovery. Don't pay the price for your disc injury, contact us to schedule your free consultation and explore your legal options today.