Can A Car Accident Cause A Bulging Disc?

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Back pain is common after an auto accident, often it will go away on its own. But if the pain persists, it might be the result of a bulging disc.

How the Spine Works

Your spine is made up of 33 bones, known as the vertebrae, which support your neck and back. The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other and are separated and cushioned by spinal discs. These discs are made from an outer layer of tough cartilage surrounding a soft cartilage center. The Mayo Clinic describes spinal discs like mini jelly doughnuts perfectly sized to fit in between your vertebrae. Spinal discs are essential as they prevent the bones from rubbing against each other and they also act as shock absorbers to prevent damage while you’re moving about. 

What is a Bulging Disc?

Over time these discs experience wear and tear which can cause the outer layer of the disc to bulge out, like a hamburger that’s too big for its bun.

This contrasts with a herniated disc, which occurs when the outer layer cracks and some of the soft inner cartilage spills out. People often conflate the two injuries. In fact, a bulging disc can lead to a herniated disc, especially after a car accident.

What Causes a Bulging Disc?

The most common cause is simply aging. Through the years the spinal discs experience wear, tear, dehydration, strain, repetitive motion etc. which can lead to a bulging disc.

However, car accidents have also been known to cause a bulging disc. Due to the design of the car seat and seat belt, spinal injuries can easily occur in head-on collisions where the upper part of the body is thrown forward while the bottom remains in place. If you already have a bulging disc, the collision impact can worsen the condition or even cause it to become a herniated disc.

Symptoms of a Bulging Disc

The symptoms may vary depending on the severity of the bulging disc and where it is located on the spine, but in general, people may experience:

  • Persistent back pain.
  • Back pain that worsens with movement.
  • Spasms in the back muscles.
  • Reduced mobility in the lower body.
  • Reduced bladder and bowel control.
  • Difficulty walking.

Treatment will again depend on the severity and location of the bulging disc. It can range from over-the-counter pain meds to physical therapy to serious surgery.

Hire an Attorney

If you were in a car accident and you’re experiencing back pain, make sure to seek immediate medical treatment. Then, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney. If the accident was the other driver’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills and pain and suffering.