Neck injuries are common in many types of accidents. A slip and fall accident or motor vehicle accident could result in neck injuries. A sports injury or injury caused by a recreational activity could severely damage the bones and soft tissues in the neck. 

After an accident or blunt force trauma to the neck, you could feel pain and stiffness. You might have trouble turning your head, and you could experience headaches. The pain grows worse with time instead of easing off.

You could have a herniated disc. Immediate medical care is the best way to determine the severity of your injury and to receive treatment that could help you heal. If you don’t seek medical attention, your symptoms could grow worse, or you could develop a permanent impairment.

The Cervical Spine and Intervertebral Discs

The bones in your spine are called vertebrae. Seven vertebrae make up the cervical spine. They are numbered from top to bottom as C1 through C7. 

Between each of the cervical bones, there is a spongy cushion called an intervertebral disc. The cervical discs cushion the bones when you move your head and neck. Each disc is made up of a jelly-like substance (nucleus pulposus) in the center and a rigid outer shell (annulus fibrosus). 

What is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc is also called a ruptured disc or a slipped disc. 

When a disc moves out of place because of a strain or injury, it can put pressure on spinal nerves. The pressure can cause pain as it “pinches” the nerve between the disc and the vertebrae. 

A disc may also rupture and leak fluid into the spinal column if the outer shell of the disc tears or is damaged during an injury or strain. The jelly-like substance can cause intense pain when it comes into contact with the spinal nerves.

In both cases, the pain may be stabbing and sharp. Pain may also be a constant, burning pain that does not ease.

A herniated disc can happen anywhere in the spinal column. However, two of the most common locations for herniated discs in the neck are between the C4 and C5 vertebrae and between the C5 and C6 vertebrae.

Symptoms of a Herniated Cervical Disc

Pain is the most common symptom of a herniated disc. However, a person may also experience numbness, tingling, and weakness. The location of the symptoms depends on which cervical disc is herniated. 

There may be numbness and tingling in the neck and arms that radiate to the shoulders of individuals with a herniated disc between the C4 and C5 vertebrae. They may also experience weakness in the deltoid muscle (shoulder).

Herniated discs between the C5 and C6 vertebrae also cause numbness and tingling. However, the symptoms are often in the hand, wrist, and forearms. The person may experience weakness in the front of the upper arms (bicep muscles).

A herniated disc can make it painful and difficult for a person to care for their personal needs. They may need assistance with feeding, bathing, dressing, and other needs. In severe cases, a herniated disc could result in partial paralysis in certain areas of the body.

Diagnosing and Treating a Cervical Disc That Herniates 

Doctors begin with a physical examination and a review of the patient’s symptoms. Based on the examination, a doctor may order one or more diagnostic tests to confirm a herniated disc. 

X-rays may not show a herniated disc. Generally, a doctor orders an MRI or CT scan. A doctor may also order a nerve conduction study. 

The treatment plan depends on the severity of the injury and the patient’s symptoms. For mild symptoms, the doctor may order medication and rest to treat the herniated disc. 

Medications used to treat herniated cervical discs include:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

If pain medications and rest do not relieve the symptoms, doctors might refer the patient for physical therapy or recommend injections to treat the symptoms. Immobilizing the neck with a collar is another treatment option for herniated discs.

For severely herniated discs, surgery may be required to treat the injury. Surgery can be used to prevent further injury to the nerves, relieve pressure on the spinal cord, and stabilize the neck. 

Filing a Personal Injury Claim for a Herniated Disc

If another party caused the accident or incident that resulted in your herniated disc, that party could be liable for your damages. Filing a personal injury claim could result in compensation for your economic damages, such as lost wages and medical bills. You may also receive compensation for non-economic damages, including physical pain, permanent disabilities, and emotional suffering.

However, the statute of limitations in Georgia sets deadlines for filing injury claims. Waiting too long to file a claim or seek legal advice about an injury claim could result in the loss of your legal rights.