Herniated Discs – Causes and Types

A herniated disc is a painful injury that is often accompanied by a variety of complications. Typically affecting elderly adults when resulting from natural causes, a herniated disc caused by trauma can affect anyone, regardless of age.

What is a herniated disc?

Discs in the back refer to cushions in the spinal column that are used to separate and protect important vertebrae. Vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine, which provides structure and support for the body, as well as protects the spinal column. When one of the discs in the back is disturbed, the disc often moves, fractures, bulges, or is otherwise damaged as a result. When this happens, it is known as a herniated disc. Other common names for the condition are a slipped disc or a ruptured disc.

Types of Herniated Discs

 There are three main different types of herniated discs, all of which refer to the position in the back that the herniated disc occurs. These types are known as a cervical herniated disc, lumbar herniated disc, and a thoracic herniated disc. This refers to the neck area of the spine, the lower back area of the spine, and the middle part of the back/spine respectively.

The most frequent type of herniated disc injury occurs in the lumbar spine, although herniated disc injures are common in the thoracic and cervical regions of the spine as well.

Causes of a Herniated Disc

 The most common cause of a herniated disc is a result of natural aging. As a person ages, the spine and the discs within the spine naturally deteriorate, making them more prone to injury. However, herniated discs can be sustained as a result of unnatural causes, too.

When part of the back is traumatized as a result of an accident – such as a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a bike accident, a pedestrian accident, or a slip and fall injury – a herniated disc can occur. Anytime that a sudden, heavy, or traumatic amount of force or strain is put on the spine, a person is at risk of sustaining a herniated disc injury.

Symptoms and Risks of a Herniated Disc

 The most common symptom of a herniated disc is pain. However, if the herniated disc injury isn’t severe, a patient may not experience any pain at all. The biggest risk of a herniated disc is that the disc disturbs a nerve in the spine. When a nerve is disturbed, a person may have symptoms including:

  • Pain in the ankle or foot
  • Lower back pain
  • Weakness in leg muscles
  • A tingling sensation in the leg or foot
  • Thigh pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

When a herniated disc injury is severe, it can lead to permanent nerve damage.

Who’s most at risk?

Those who are elderly are the most at risk for a herniated disk injury due to natural aging. However, those with a history of back injuries, who are male, who are overweight, who smoke, and who don’t exercise regularly are also more at risk for sustaining a herniated disc injury during an accident.


A medical professional should always diagnose a herniated disc injury. If you suspect that you have a herniated disc in your back, you should seek consultation with a board-certified doctor immediately. During your appointment, the doctor will probably use a physical exam, a review of your medical history and accident type, and an MRI or CT scan if necessary.

Treatment Options for a Herniated Disc Injury

Some herniated disc injuries are minor enough that they can be treated at home using heat, ice, exercise, rest, and physical therapy exercises. Often times, home remedies are also combined with over-the-counter or prescription pain medications to make the injury more bearable, and to reduce inflammation.

For herniated disc injuries that are severe, though, more medically invasive actions may be required. For those victims of accidents whose herniated disc injury has caused damage to the nerve, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is usually reserved for patients who have experienced pain consistently for more than a four-week period; have extreme weakness, numbness, or sensitivity as a result of the injury; and are unable to function as normal due to the herniated disc injury.

There are two types of surgeries that are typically performed to correct a herniated disc injury. A discectomy is the surgery that is used to remove or correct the part of the herniated disc that is putting pressure on the nerve, causing nerve damage or related pain and complications. This surgery type is most commonly performed for lumbar spine herniated disc injuries.

The other common type of surgery that’s used to correct a herniated disc injury is what’s known as a laminotomy and laminectomy.  The lamina refers to the parts of the bone that make up the vertebrae; during a laminotomy and laminectomy, the lamina is removed to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord and related nerves.

Liability for a Herniated Disc Injury

Because a herniated disc injury is often the result of an avoidable accident, like a car accident, the person who caused your accident and injury may be held liable for paying for the injury. In order to be held liable, you or your lawyer will have to prove that the person responsible was acting negligently – or outside of the realm or normal and reasonable behavior – at the time of the accident’s occurrence, and that the negligent behavior was the direct cause of the accident.

If you can prove the above, then the person will be held liable for your injuries. If held liable, you can recover damages for all of your medical expense, any financial losses you’ve suffered as a direct result of the herniated disc injury (such as lost wages from not being able to work), and even non-economic damages, like compensation for pain and suffering.

Contact a Massachusetts Herniated Disc Attorney Today

If you’ve suffered from a herniated disc injury in Massachusetts that you believe wouldn’t have occurred but for the negligence of another person, then you need an attorney.  Louison Costello Condon & Pfaff, can help you get the compensation you need for your herniated disc injury. Call now at 617-439-0305 for a free case consultation today. We are easy to talk to and understand your situation.

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