What is a disc, how does it get injured from a car accident, and what would I feel if my disc is injured?

Over the many years of evaluating, treating and diagnosing injuries related to car accidents, the physicians at the Fakhoury Medical and Chiropractic Center have had to care for many patients with injuries to the discs of their spine.

First of all, what exactly is a disc? What is the difference between a slipped disc, ruptured disc, herniated disc or a bulged disc? To answer these questions, let’s take a moment to understand the structure of the disc at a basic level. Discs are found throughout the spine, between the vertebrae or bones of the spine. They have a gel center, that is wrapped by fibers to keep the gel in place. Think of it as a jelly filled donut; jelly in the center and the fiber being the cake portion holding the gel in place. In between the vertebrae (bones of the spine) the disc acts like a shock absorber, allows for movement between the bones and also acts like a spacer or bushing to keep the bones apart from each other, preventing a pinching of the nerves that come out between the vertebrae.

Discs are very susceptible to injury whenever there is a sudden and unexpected twisting motion placed upon them. For example, you may be sitting at a light when a vehicle could hit you from the rear. Even with a slower speed impact, the disc is very vulnerable to injury if the neck is turned towards the other passenger, or if the driver is looking at the rear view mirror.

The rotational or twisting motion that is placed on the disc, causes a twisting of the fibers, or as in our example, the cake portion of the donut that holds the jelly in. This twisting force is like taking the top and bottom of the donut and turning them in opposite directions. Just as the cake portion of the donut would tear, then the fibers of the disc can tear allowing the gel from within to exit through this torn opening.

A “bulging disc” is when the tear of the fibers is not complete, and the gel is still contained within the walls of the disc. Bulging discs can cause a great deal of pain and are treated very differently than a “herniated disc”. A “herniated disc” known by many as a slipped or ruptured disc occurs when the tear of the wall of the disc is complete and the gel leaks outside. A disc herniation is treated differently than a bulging disc, and can put direct pressure and cause permanent damage to the nerves that are between the vertebrae (bones of the spine).

Some of the symptoms that you may feel from either a bulge or herniated disc are the same: Pain in the spine, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, weakness of the arms or legs, and pain or burning down one or more of the limbs are a few examples.

Disc injuries are more frequently seen in car accidents, due to the nature of the sudden, twisting forces that are experienced in these types of injuries. As we said, the torque or rotational (twisting) forces are put into the spine, the fibers of the disc tear and the gel can then exit out and onto the nerves.

It is important to be evaluated immediately after a car accident due to the possibility of a disc injury and long term, recurring symptoms of pain; or worse, a disc injury that causes permanent damage to the nerve endings.

The Physicians and excellent staff at the Fakhoury Medical and Chiropractic Center have been experienced at treating thousands of cases of trauma, and are well trained and equipped in the evaluation, diagnosis and proper treatment of disc or other injuries frequently sustained in car accidents.

For further information, questions or evaluation if you have been in an accident, the Physicians and staff can be reached at 352-351-3413, or contact Dr Fakhoury directly at 352-207-0123 to help or answer your questions.

Riadh Fakhoury DC, DABCO Board Certified Chiropractic Orthopedist