As personal injury attorneys, we see many different injuries, to many different body parts, of many different clients. In order to effectively represent these clients, we have to be well versed in human anatomy in order to understand the pain and suffering our clients endure over the course of an injury.
One of the most prevalent and common issues that we see involve the spine. Our clients will say they have bulging discs, herniated discs, slipped discs, ruptured discs and so on and so forth. But, what does that mean? Are they all the same?
It is first important to understand the general anatomy of the spine. A disc acts as a cushion between the bony vertebrae that make up your spine. A disc is made up of an outer layer of cartilage that surrounds softer cartilage in the middle. Discs can be analogized as jelly donuts, with the tough outer layer protecting the softer center.
A bulging disc is present when the disc pushes outside of the space between the two vertebrae that it is positioned. This protrusion creates a ‘bulge’ appearance; hence the name. So a bulging disc can be visualized as squashing down on a jelly donut and the jelly pushes against the side of the outer layer of the donut, but never comes out.
A herniated disc occurs when there is a crack in the outer layer of cartilage which allows some of the softer inner cartilage to extend out of the disc. Herniated discs are often referred to as ruptured discs or slipped discs. A herniated disc is when the jelly actually comes out of the donut when squashed.
The list goes on when describing spinal issues, such as a pinched nerve, torn disc, collapsed disc, disc protrusion, disc disease. Even some doctors have their own terminology and/or definitions for these common terms, which makes understanding a spinal injury that much more difficult.
A herniated disc is definitely a more serious condition that can lead to pinching or irritation of the nearby nerves and spinal cord. This type of injury can cause pain not only in the immediate area, but radicular pain that can be felt in other parts of the body, such as from the low back down to the legs, or from the neck to the arms. Surgery is often recommended in such a case.
From experience with countless clients, no two injuries are alike. Each person can have completely different symptoms of the same clinical injury. Various treatments may be required to assist one’s pain and discomfort upon each condition. Regardless of what the doctor calls your injury, you should always follow their advice and treatment plans. Not following the doctor’s advice may lead to more serious injury.