Dealing with a car accident can be such a stressful experience, even when you have not been injured. Add car accident injuries to the mix, and things can get overwhelming. In the shock and stress immediately after the accident, you might not even realize you have suffered any injuries. Shock and adrenaline can mask pain and other symptoms, but once you get home and settle in, you might start to notice some aches and pains. In the days and even weeks after a car accident, you could continue to develop pain and other symptoms of a car accident injury you didn’t even realize you had! That’s why you want to see a car accident doctor as soon as possible after a crash to get checked out for any potential injuries. Common car accident injuries include whiplash, back pain, neck pain, and spinal injuries like a bulging disc. Here’s what you need to know about a bulging disc from a car accident.
What Is a Bulging Disc?
A bulging disc is one type of issue or injury that occurs in the spine. Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae stacked one on top of the other with spinal discs in between. The spinal column houses the central nervous system, which allows your brain to communicate effectively with the rest of your body through a series of nerves. Damage or injury to your spine from a car accident can lead to any number of issues in these areas and cause pain and other symptoms that start in the spine and radiate into your extremities. Each spinal disc sits between two vertebrae and offers shock absorption and prevents the two discs from rubbing together. A spinal disc has a tough outer shell with a soft, gel-like center. Sometimes, a sudden blow to the spine or intense pressure can cause the spinal disc to bulge into the spinal canal. A bulging disc refers to a type of spinal disc injury where the disc does not crack or tear but instead protrudes out of its normal positioning, and its tough outer shell can aggravate or compress a nearby nerve.
Bulging Disc vs. Herniated Disc Injury
While you may hear a friend use the terms bulging disc and herniated disc interchangeably, these are actually two different types of spinal disc issues. If you suffer from a bulging disc, then the disc is intact but may be protruding or bulging out of its normal space. However, a herniated disc refers to when the tough outer shell of a spinal disc becomes cracked or torn. This can lead to the gel-like center of the spinal disc leaking out into the spinal canal and aggravating nearby nerves. A bulging disc can lead to a herniated disc if left untreated because the pressure of the protruding part of the disc can cause it to crack or tear. It can be difficult to determine whether you are dealing with a bulging disc or a herniated disc on your own, which is why you want to see a car accident doctor for an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate plan for treatment.
Symptoms of a Bulging Disc Injury
Symptoms of a bulging disc injury after a car accident may not occur immediately after the incident. As is the case with many spinal disc problems, as nearby nerves become aggravated, you may start to notice a gradual increase in pain and discomfort in the area and nearby extremities. Pain and symptoms of a bulging disc injury can range from mild to severe depending on where the bulging disc is located and what nearby nerves it is aggravating. The most common symptoms of a bulging disc include pain, tingling, and numbness. If you have a bulging disc, it can cause a dull, throbbing pain or a shooting, stabbing pain. This pain may start in the area where the bulging disc is located and then radiate outward. When a nearby nerve is aggravated or compressed, it can lead to a pins and needles sensation with uncomfortable tingling and numbness. A bulging disc in your neck can cause pain, tingling, and numbness to radiate into your shoulder, arm, and hand. This can occur with a whiplash injury, where your head and neck jolt forward and backward violently when another car collides with yours. This sudden force on your neck and spine can lead to a bulging disc.
Diagnosing a Bulging Disc
Visit a car accident doctor as soon as possible for a thorough examination where they can assess you for potential injuries. A bulging disc car accident injury may require a combination of a physical examination and diagnostic imaging tools like a CT scan or MRI to effectively diagnose. When diagnosing disc problems, your car accident doctor will need to locate the affected spinal disc causing your symptoms. They may be able to pinpoint its location with a manual examination of your spine. Diagnostic imaging tests can also confirm the location and provide your doctor with a more detailed look at the area. Images from a CT scan or MRI can also assist your doctor in determining whether you are dealing with a bulging disc or a herniated disc. If you have a condition like degenerative disc disease, this can make you more susceptible to developing a bulging or herniated disc after a car accident. Identifying the root cause of your bulging disc will help your car accident doctor determine the best course of treatment for you.
Treating a Bulging Disc After a Car Accident
There are many treatment options for a bulging disc after a car accident. Many treatment techniques are non-invasive, and your doctor will typically start with these more conservative treatment approaches before resorting to injections or surgical procedures. Here are a few examples of how to treat a bulging disc after a car accident.
If you are dealing with a mild bulging disc injury after a car accident, then you may be able to manage your pain and symptoms at home and in between treatments with your car accident doctor. At-home remedies may include applying ice and heat and taking over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and inflammation. Cold compresses like an ice pack can reduce inflammation and provide you with a temporary numbing sensation to help relieve your discomfort. Warm compresses like a heating pad can help restore healthy blood flow to the area and soothe stiff and sore muscles nearby.
A car accident chiropractor will utilize natural and drug-free approaches to treating your bulging disc after an accident. Chiropractic care may involve safe and effective chiropractic adjustments to help realign the vertebrae and spinal discs in your spine. Therapeutic massage and soft tissue mobilization can help reduce pain and stiffness in nearby muscles and promote strength and healing in the area. A chiropractor will work with you to properly realign your spine and make sure your muscles and other soft tissues can provide effective support and stability to the area. This will also help prevent future issues with a bulging disc. Chiropractic care also has the added bonus of improving your overall healthy functioning, so you can feel better than ever before. Resolving misalignments in the spine will help your whole body function more effectively.
Physical therapy can also help with relieving pressure on a nearby nerve and improving your overall strength and stability. A physical therapist can walk you through stretches and exercises that will help elongate your spine so that spinal discs have enough space to rest properly in between vertebrae. Physical therapy offers a wide range of health benefits, including how to improve your overall strength, stamina, and flexibility. In order to experience lasting relief from pain, tingling, and numbness, your treatment should help reduce compression of the nerve caused by the bulging disc. A physical therapist can work with you to better support your spine with stronger muscles and more stabilizing soft tissues so your spine can function more effectively.
Other Treatment Options
Your doctor may recommend injections into the spine to provide you with longer-term pain relief from a bulging disc. These injections are known as cortisone injections or epidural steroid injections. In rare cases, you may need a surgical procedure to address a bulging disc after a car accident.
If you were injured in a car accident, then you want to visit a car accident doctor as soon as possible to get checked out for potential injuries. The last thing you want is to be dealing with chronic pain or nerve damage for untreated car accident injuries. The sooner you get treatment for car accident injuries, the more effective and swifter your recovery will be. Visit a car accident doctor at AICA Orthopedics to get started on an initial evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment plan for you. Our team of car accident doctors includes orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, chiropractors, and physical therapists who work together to provide you with comprehensive care. Learn more about our innovative approach to treating car accident injuries when you visit our Atlanta location near you.