A herniated disc can drastically reduce the overall quality of your life. If you were involved in a car accident, one of the first steps you should take following the incident is to schedule an appointment with a car accident doctor. The doctor should perform a thorough assessment of your major systems, including your musculoskeletal system. If the doctor suspects you have a herniated disc, he or she may order additional tests and recommend an adequate course of treatment.
In most cases, herniated discs resolve on their own and with conventional treatment.
A car injury doctor may initially recommend you get plenty of rest and take it easy for a couple of days. The doctor may advise against going to work, lifting heavy objects, or engaging in strenuous exercise. Depending on the degree of your injury, the doctor may recommend that you remain in bed for a couple of days and use alternating ice and heat to help reduce the swelling and relieve the pain.
Over-the-Counter Pain Medications
If you are in significant pain, your auto injury doctor may prescribe you OTC pain relievers. Those include ibuprofen such as Motrin IB and Advil; acetaminophen, such as Tylenol; and naproxen sodium, such as Aleve. If the pain does not subside within ten days, however, your doctor may either switch you to something stronger or recommend a different course of treatment.
Some patients develop nerve damage as a result of a herniated disc. Nerve damage can cause the muscles in the back to spasm, which can be both disconcerting and uncomfortable. If you experience muscle spasming following a car accident, talk to your doctor about getting a muscle relaxant prescribed to you. A low-dose relaxant can ease the spasms in your back and the pain that comes with them.
Your car accident doctor may prescribe physical therapy in conjunction with rest and over-the-counter medications. The goal of physical therapy is to improve the symptoms of a herniated disc and increase the flexibility, strength, and endurance of your core.
If your doctor recommends physical therapy, you will be put on a strict and highly personalized exercise plan. You don’t want to overexert yourself and therefore do more harm than good, but you do want to increase your core strength a little bit at a time. Depending on how severe your injury is, your exercise program may include aerobic exercise — such as stationary biking and walking to build endurance, improve circulation, and improve flexibility. Other types of therapy your auto injury doctor may recommend are the following:
- Ultrasound therapy
- Ice and heat therapy
- Electrical muscle stimulation
Unfortunately, some herniated disc cases do not respond well to conservative treatment. In these instances, spinal cord injections or surgery may be necessary.
Spinal Cord Injections
If rest, medication, physical therapy, or a combination of all three are ineffective at treating your condition, your doctor may recommend spinal cord injections. Spinal cord injections are the last treatment option before your physician resorts to surgery.
For a herniated disc, your doctor will inject a cortisone-like medication into the area around your spinal nerve. Many people refer to this type of injection as an “epidural.” The goal of the injection is to reduce the inflammation and swelling around your nerve roots, decrease the pain from the herniated disc, and allow for increased mobility.
Your doctor will take extra precautions to ensure he or she injects the epidural at the right spot and does not hit your nerve roots. Additional precautions may include using a CT scan or X-ray to guide the procedure, and you may need more than one injection to relieve your pain.
Surgery is a last-resort option for patients who live with herniated discs. Your doctor may recommend surgery if you do not respond to any forms of conservative treatment and if your symptoms grow progressively worse. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if he or she sees signs of progressive neurologic decline. There are four types of surgeries your doctor may recommend for your back:
- Diskectomy: This procedure involves your surgeon removing the damaged disc entirely to relieve the pressure on your nerves. There are two ways a surgeon may perform this procedure. The first is through an open cut in your back or neck, also known as a Diskectomy. The second is through a small incision where the surgeon inserts a narrow camera to guide the removal of the disc, known as a Microdiscectomy.
- Lumbar Laminotomy: Sometimes, removing the herniated disc is not enough. Your surgeon may need to remove the lamina (a small piece of bone) from your vertebra. The lamina forms a protective shield over your spinal cord, and your surgeon may need to remove all or part of it to access the herniated disc. Removing the lamina may also reduce pressure on your nerves and eliminate the symptoms of sciatica. If a lumbar laminotomy is necessary, the surgeon will perform it at the same time as the diskectomy.
- Artificial Disc Surgery: If the herniated disc is lower in your back, your doctor may recommend you for artificial disc surgery. Artificial disc surgery entails replacing the damaged disc with a metal or plastic one. Though not many people are candidates for this surgery, if you are, it could mean you enjoy increased stability and flexibility post-surgery.
- Spinal Fusion: After your diskectomy or laminotomy, your surgeon may stabilize your spine by fusing the vertebrae on the side of the disc. The goal of a spinal fusion is to prevent your bones from moving during post-surgery and from ensuring continued comfort long into the future.
Work With an Attorney Who Cares
At CityWide Injury & Accident, we know just how important it is for car accident victims to get evaluated within 72 hours following an accident. If you don’t have a car accident doctor, our team is more than happy to connect you with one. Fill out our online form and request an appointment with a reputable doctor who understands the personal injury legal system. We understand the urgency of your injury and will be in contact with you within 15 minutes of hitting “Submit.” If you have any questions, please call us at 713-782-0082.