Can a Car Accident Cause Degenerative Disc Disease?

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Degenerative disc disease refers to pain some people feel when the discs between the vertebrae of the spine break down, or degenerate. Most people’s spinal cord discs break down over time, but only some people experience pain. A few things can cause degenerative disc disease, including the discs drying out over time. Back injuries can also cause degenerative disc disease and related chronic pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease and Accidents

A crack in the outer wall that causes degenerative disc disease can occur naturally with age, or it may stem from a traumatic accident. When the back sustains an injury in a car accident, slip and fall, or other incident, it may not be able to fully recover. Even minor injuries, such as a tear in the outer wall of the spine, can damage the nerves and make disc degeneration painful. In this way, something like a car accident could cause degenerative disc disease in a victim. You may have degenerative disc disease if you experience the following symptoms.

  • Sharp pain in the back or neck
  • Chronic pain in the lower back or buttocks
  • Pain that lasts weeks or months, either minor or severe
  • Pain that worsens when sitting still or bending
  • Tingling or numbness in the limbs
  • Muscle weakness in the legs

Diagnosing degenerative disc disease will take an exam from a medical practitioner. A doctor may ask when the pain began, where you feel the pain, whether it has spread farther than just your back, and whether you have a history of spinal cord injuries. An injury such as a slipped disc, bulging or ruptured disc, back sprain, torn cartilage, or whiplash from an auto accident could have caused your degenerative disc disease.

Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is chronic and typically painful for the sufferer. Unfortunately, the disease has no cure. The goal for treatment is not to heal the problem, but to manage pain and prevent further damage to the spinal cord. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen may help for pain relief and ease swelling in the back.

Physical therapy may help strengthen the back muscles and make them more flexible, so they can better support the spinal column. Steroid shots are another potential treatment to ease swelling and pain. Severe cases may require discectomy surgery, or the removal of the damaged part of the spinal disc to relieve pressure on the nerves.

Financial Recovery for Degenerative Disc Disease

Some cases of degenerative disc disease stem from old injuries. In other cases, the reverse is true: a spinal cord injury causes existing degenerative disc disease to start showing symptoms or flare up. Symptoms from disc degeneration that used to cause no pain may now feel painful or debilitating. It may be possible to recover damages for this disease.

Pain and disability from degenerative disc disease can force a car accident victim to take time away from work, find a new job, or retire early. It could also cost thousands of dollars in medical bills, prescription medications, rehabilitative therapies, or surgeries. Recovering for degenerative disc disease can be difficult, however, since most crash victims will not experience symptoms until long after the car accident that caused the original back or neck injury.

If you believe a car accident caused your degenerative disc disease, speak to a West Virginia car accident attorney near you. It may be possible to file a claim against an at-fault party for your disease, or to reopen a closed insurance claim. Although West Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, the clock does not start ticking until the date of discovery of injuries. If you do not discover you have degenerative disc disease until years after the crash, you may still be eligible to file for compensation.