As I have blogged about before, Atlanta truck accident victims suffer vertebral disc injuries which can go undiagnosed by their doctors. The reasons for this are twofold. First, ER doctors do not typically order MRIs (magnetic resonance images) of the neck or back, the diagnostic test used to show a disc injury. It simply is not an ER doctor’s job. He is there to make sure that his patients do not die from an immediate injury, not to diagnose every single injury. Once he is convinced that someone is stabilized and not in mortal danger, the ER doctor either admits the patient to the hospital for further care or discharges him or her with instructions to follow up with another doctor. This is called triage. Second, MRIs are expensive, and insurance companies don’t want to pay for them. Therefore, they insist that orthopedic doctors exhaust conservative measures before they order and MRI. Sometimes, orthopedic doctors don’t even order them at all except for the insistence of the patient.
Sometimes, the patient, especially a man, wants to be tough and not admit to others he was hurt too badly. The adrenaline of the accident can convince someone he or she is fine. Dealing with an insurance company for a diagnostic is not fun either.
Whatever the reason, don’t wait. Get the MRI. Back and spinal injuries, including disc injuries are very serious. If they are not diagnosed within a reasonable time, the insurance company of the at-fault driver may deny coverage. The later the diagnosis, the more these insurance companies argue that the injury was not suffered at the time of the collision. If the treating doctor cannot definitively say that the injury was caused by the accident, the victim may be out of luck. It’s a vicious cycle.
You must recognize the symptoms of a herniated, bulging or ruptured disc injury.
Traumatic Structural Experience. A person who has experienced a disc injury may feel a “pop” sensation in his or her lower back or neck, followed by the onset of pain. The presence of such a sensation pop does not necessarily mean that the person has experienced a disc injury. In fact, the facet joints are capable of “popping.” Moreover, if one is injured in a violent auto or truck accident, a small “pop” will probably not be audible.
Back Pain. Persistent back pain that endures beyond the first few days or weeks following the accident could be the sign of a disc injury. Spinal column discs are flexible and elastic, but the forces in an impact can push this cartilaginous tissue beyond its limits, causing a herniated or ruptured disc. The collapse of the disc can place great pressure upon the sciatic nerve. The pain can consist of numbness with bouts of sharp, stabbing pain, sometimes extending down to the feet and legs. If not treated, the pressure of the protruding or collapsed disc can cause chronic pain and numbness.
Back Spasms. The muscles in the back, like the spinal erector, upper rhomboids and trapezium, can become very tight and inflexible. This is the body’s defense mechanism. The body will attempt to limit mobility by tightening muscles to limit further movement and injury. This muscle tightness can extend to areas far away from the injured disc like the neck, shoulders calves, toes and feet.
If you have been in a serious automobile accident, boat accident or motorcycle accident, and have experienced back pain, make sure you follow up with your orthopedic. Don’t see a chiropractor. See a medical doctor only. If you experience the symptoms above for an extended period, insist on an MRI. Finally, see an experienced Atlanta back injury lawyer to make sure that the insurance company does not claim that the disc injury was caused by something other than the accident.