The human spine is an intricate network of small bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other. Each vertebra has two joints on the posterior side that connects the vertebrae together forming a column. The spine extends from the base of the skull and through the neck (the cervical spine), between the shoulder blades (the thoracic spine), and though the lower back, ending at the tailbone (the lumbar spine). While the spine acts at the central support for the body, it also houses the spinal column which is part of the central nervous system. All neural activity and impulses spend time in this area, whether transmitted or received. When there is trauma to this area, such as with degenerative disc disease, it can cause a great deal of problems.
What is Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease typically occurs in the lumbar spine, the lower back area, causing pain and stiffness. While it can occur as part of the aging process, trauma, such as a car accident, can also cause it. In order to understand the disease, it is important to understand the anatomy of the spine. Between each vertebra there is a fluid filled cushion that decreases the impact of daily activity. This cushion does not a blood supply meaning that it is not able to heal or repair itself. Once it is damaged due to injury, it will not heal on its own.
When the disc sustains trauma, it can result in inflammation, abnormal micro-motion instability, or a combination of the two. Inflammation affects the disc and can irritate the smaller nerves that are located within the disc space, but it can also reach larger nerves, causing pain in the legs, knees, and hips. Abnormal micro-motion instability occurs when the disc’s outer rings are worn down and are no longer able to protect the spine by absorbing stress.
Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease
When degenerative disc disease is caused by an accident, it may come on suddenly or gradually. Sometimes it may not become apparent for weeks or even months after your accident. That is why it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible after an accident and to get regular checkups. If you experience pain or difficulty moving, you should talk to your doctor. Documentation of your injuries and medical treatments are vital.
Symptoms of degenerative disc pain include:
- Low back pain that may radiate to the legs and hips
- Low back pain that lasts more than six weeks and is continuous
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Tingling and numbness in the legs
- Pain that worsens when the discs are supporting a heavier load, such as when walking or sitting
- Pain that gets worse with certain movements, like twisting, bending, or lifting
- Pain, numbness, and tingling in the low pack, hip, or leg
How is Degenerative Disc Disease Treated
Typically, degenerative disc disease is treated with medication to manage the pain and inflammation as well as physical therapy, chiropractic care, and exercise. Surgery is also an option, but it is often used as a last resort. Back surgery can be risky and may not always adequately address the pain and immobility that the patient is experiencing. Most doctors prefer to use medication, chiropractic, exercise, and physical therapy as a first line treatment option.
The patient may also be advised to modify their activities. This can create problems for the patient if their job requires extended standing, walking, or lifting heavy objects. In cases where the patient has these and similar activities, he or she may find that they must take off of work for an extended amount of time in order to heal and recover from the injury. They may also be required to make certain modifications even if their job is not physical. These modifications may be necessary for months or even years.
At DuBoff & Associates, Chartered we understand the frustration and uncertainty that an injury can cause. You may wonder if you will be able to return to work, when, or if you will be disabled. You may be concerned about your family and how you will support them. If you’ve sustained a back injury that led to degenerative disc disease caused by an accident, we’re here to help. We’ll cut through the uncertainty and help you get back on your feet while ensuring that you get the compensation you deserve. Give us a call and let us go to work for you.