Bulging discs are one of the most common types of back injuries people experience after a collision or work-related accident.
Sometimes a person can have a bulging disc and not even realize it! Other times the disc slides out of position and pinches a nerve, causing pain to radiate into the hips, legs and feet.
Before we get into the symptoms and treatment options, it’s important to understand what a disc is and the different kinds of disc bulges that can happen. If you’re suffering from spinal injury or back pain caused by a car accident or injury on the job, call our law firm at 770-934-8000 for help.
What Is a Disc?
A disc sits between the bony vertebra of the spine. Shaped like small pancakes, these gelatinous structures act as shock absorbers, use ligaments to hold the spine together, and allow for spinal mobility.
Each of the 23 discs contains two parts: a thick outer shell made of collagen fibers and an inner core made of loose fibers and gel.
As we age, the discs begin to dehydrate and become stiffer. This stiffness means the discs are less able to handle compression and are more likely to tear as the result of a twisting injury.
What Is a Disc Bulge?
A disc bulge occurs when a weakened spinal disc protrudes out from where it sits between two vertebrae and pushes against a nerve or the spinal cord.
This pinching can cause symptoms including pain, numbness, or tingling in the back or other parts of the body. Bulging disc symptoms can vary depending on what part of the spine is affected:
- Upper Spine: The cervical spinal area rests between the head and the shoulders. A cervical bulging disc can produce pain, tingling or numbness in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
- Middle Spine: The thoracic spinal area covers the vertebrae between the collarbones and the bottom of the rib cage. A thoracic bulging disc isn’t as common and its symptoms aren’t as easy to detect. Chest or stomach pain caused by the weakened disc could be mistaken for some other ailment.
- Lower Spine: From the waist to the hips is the lumbar spinal area. Lower back pain is quite common. Lumbar bulging discs can cause weakness, numbness, tingling and muscle spasms in the legs, bottom and feet. Sneezing, coughing and bending can sometimes worsen these symptoms.
Such symptoms can have a negative impact on your quality of life and you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
How Do I Know If I Have a Bulging Disc?
No matter how much pain you’re feeling, you should always go to the doctor after a wreck or injury on the job. Even if you feel fine after an accident, your injuries may reveal themselves over time.
The best way to know if you have a bulging disc is to receive an MRI. The MRI is able to pick up both the spine and the connective tissue around the vertebrae to give you and your doctor an accurate assessment of what is happening internally.
Even if you do not have a bulging disc injury, your doctor may be able to pinpoint a different cause of pain, such as annular tears in a disc or facet joint injuries in the spine.
What Are My Treatment Options?
A treating physician or spine care specialist may prescribe a number of treatments or pain relief options for a bulging disc injury:
- Resting - Sometimes the best medicine is time. It may take a few weeks or a few months for the inflamed areas to heal.
- Medication - Over-the-counter or prescribed medicines such as painkillers, muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatory drugs may help alleviate pain caused by a bulging disc.
- Rehabilitation - Physical therapy, massages, stretching or a chiropractor may be needed to help your body heal and recover. Other alternatives include electrical stimulation, pain patches and ultrasound therapy.
- Injections - Cortisone injections at the site of the weakened disc can numb the pain and is a safer alternative to opioids.
Will I Need Surgery to Treat a Disc Bulge?
The vast majority of bulging disc injuries do not need to be treated with surgery. Rest, medication and some lifestyle changes or physical therapy are usually enough to heal from a bulging disc injury.
However, if you continue to suffer from chronic pain after trying more conservative methods for several months, surgery may be the best option to treat your bulging disc.
Different kinds of surgeries vary in their level of invasiveness. It is a good idea to talk to two or three other spine specialists to know all of your surgical options.
Can a Disc Bulge Become Worse?
Unfortunately, yes. Without proper treatment and rest, a bulging disc can become a herniated disc.
A wreck or work injury could also aggravate a pre-existing disc bulge you were unaware of and cause it to worsen or burst.
If you’re suffering from a bulging disc, back pain, neck pain or other injuries due to a negligent driver or hazardous working conditions give Gary Martin Hays & Associates a call at 770-934-800.
We can help get the insurance company to compensate you for the expensive and unexpected medical care you need to recover and return to normal.