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Can a Car Accident Cause Degenerative Disc Disease?

Posted on May 4, 2020 in Car Accidents

When most people think about car accident injuries, they imagine broken bones, lacerations, concussions and other trauma-related injuries. They may not consider long-term ramifications, such as chronic pain or conditions such as degenerative disk disease. While a car accident cannot cause degenerative disk disease, it can worsen the symptoms of this condition. A plaintiff with degenerative disk disease may be able to seek compensation for the exacerbation of this condition after an auto accident. To learn more, speak with a Los Angeles auto accident lawyer.

What Is Degenerative Disk Disease?

Degenerative disk disease is a painful condition that can naturally occur due to wear and tear on the spinal cord disks over time as a person ages. The spinal disks may deteriorate and not work as well as they used to, causing pain or discomfort – especially when bending or twisting the back. Symptoms of degenerative disk disease can include pain in the lower back, pain that worsens when you sit and pain that eases when you lie down. Most people’s spinal cord disks degenerate with age, although not everyone will experience pain.

Diagnosing degenerative disk disease takes a doctor listening to the patient’s complaints, asking when the pain started, exploring family medical history, asking about prior spine trauma, and/or ordering an x-ray. Degenerative disk disease treatment typically focuses on pain management rather than disk restoration. Treatments can include pain medications, medicines to reduce swelling, physical therapies, steroid shots and surgeries in some cases. Discectomy, for example, can remove part of an injured spinal disk to take away pressure from the surrounding nerves, alleviating pain. Another type of surgery fuses the bones of the spine together after disk removal.

Degenerative Disk Disease and Trauma

Although degenerative disk disease occurs from the natural process of aging, spinal cord trauma in a car accident can exacerbate this condition. An injury from a car accident might not cause degenerative disk disease, but it can aggravate this preexisting condition to make for worse symptoms for the victim. Trauma, damage or an injury to the spine can speed up the natural breakdown of the disks between the vertebrae, causing more significant symptoms. Even minor injuries can tear the outer wall of the spinal cord – where the nerves lie – and increase the odds of injuries such as a herniated disk.

A herniated disk is a common complication associated with degenerative disk disease and car accidents. Disk herniation refers to the bulging of a spinal disk from its original position within the spinal cord. This can occur due to the weakening of the wall that usually holds the disks in place. Disk herniation is a painful condition that can cause nerve irritation and severe pain. It may or may not require treatment to heal. Disk herniation can also lead to a slipped disk in the spine.

Degenerative Disk Disease and Insurance Claims

Since degenerative disk disease is a preexisting condition, it can be difficult for a victim to obtain compensation for it after an auto accident. It is important to document the victim’s medical condition in detail, including any x-rays or MRIs that show the damage to the spinal column specifically related to the auto accident.

The victim or his or her lawyer will have to prove the auto accident exacerbated or worsened the victim’s existing degenerative disk disease, leading to additional damages that would not have existed were it not for the wreck. These damages can include pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages. The best way to have an effective claim to damages for degenerative disk disease after a car accident is by hiring a lawyer for representation.