What is a Herniated Disc?

Many Massachusetts accident victims each year sustain herniated disc injuries.  But what is a herniated disc?  Here is a post provided by top-flight Maryland personal injury attorney Ronald Miller over at his firm’s website:

Spinal discs are round cushions that lie in between the vertebrae of the spinal column. These discs basically act like shock absorbers between the vertebrae, cushioning them when we contort our bodies in everyday life. These discs have an external shell and a liquid substance in the middle. The metaphor we often use with juries in personal injury cases is that the discs are like jelly donuts. If a disc is injured as the result of the trauma of an auto accident, the "jelly" may leak out of the disc. If the inner core of the disc extrudes back into the spinal canal it may impact a nerve root. The weak spot in a disc is directly under the nerve root and a herniated disc can put great pressure on the nerve, which can cause pain to radiate throughout the person’s body.

Where the pain radiates to in the body depends on where the disc herniation occurs. When a patient has a symptomatic herniated disc, the pain is not in the disc area; rather, the disc herniation is pinching a nerve in the spine that causes ‘radicular’ pain. This radicular pain is typically described as a pain that shoots through the body, usually to one area in particular, since each nerve in the spine is connected to a particular area of the body. This pain can be nerve root pain, leg pain if the herniation is in the lumbar (back), or arm pain from a cervical (neck) herniated disc.

     A herniated disc is rarely diagnosed in the emergency room after an auto accident. This is because the disc is invisible on an x-ray. Accordingly, a patient typically needs a CT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test so that a physician can pick up a disc herniation. A discography, myelography, or an electromyography are also used to diagnose herniated discs. It is worth noting that the experts agree that these diagnostic tests cannot diagnose the injury victim’s pain. There is no clear cut correlation between the degree of the hernination and the patient pain symptoms because there are so many other variables involved.

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