The most common soft tissue injury that occurs in car accidents, is the herniated disc.
Understanding the Anatomy
The spinal column is made of up of bones known as vertebrae (plural)-Vertebra (singular). Each vertebra is separated by a disc which you can think of as a jelly donut. The fibrous outer portion of the disc protects the inside which is jelly-like.
The discs, together with ligaments and joints connect each vertebrae and help maintain the spine’s normal alignment and curvature while also allowing for movement.
At the center of the spinal column there is an open channel called the spinal canal. The spinal cord and the spinal nerves are located in the spinal canal where they are surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by the strong spinal column.
What is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc occurs when the fibrous outer portion of the disc ruptures or tears and the jelly-like core squeezes out. When the herniated disc compresses on a nearby nerve the result can be a pinched nerve. Herniations can occur from the strong impact of a car crash.
Herniations can cause numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs. The substance that makes up the disc’s jelly-like core can also inflame and irritate the nerve, causing additional pain.
How is it Diagnosed?
Herniations are typically diagnosed by using one or a combination of the two most common tools:
-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) -This is the most common tool used by medical professional to diagnose herniations. MRIS are either done by placing the injured personal into a tunnel like structure. Open/Stand Up MRIS are also commonly used.
-Electromyography (EMG)-This tests electrical activity of a nerve root to help determine the cause of the pain.
How is a Herniated Disc Treated?
Herniations are typically treated conservatively with physical therapy. If the conditions does not improve medical professionals will usually administer epidural injections. In some cases, surgery may be required.