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Intervertebral Disc Degeneration

A Cook County Back Injury Lawyer Can Help After Intervertebral Disc Degeneration

Intervertebral disc degeneration in the lower spine or neck can occur as a natural process of aging. This normally occurs as we get older, and as often as not, little if any acute pain accompanies the condition that cannot be alleviated by over-the-counter remedies. Sometimes the condition develops after an accident, and if that’s the case, then a Cook County back injury lawyer about potentially gaining compensation.

Intervertebral (spinal) discs are soft, pillow-like “spacers” that separate each bony vertebra from the next. All together, they comprise the spinal column. These discs function as shock absorbers, giving the back a great deal of flexibility to bend and twist. Though any spinal disc can degenerate, the most common occurrences are in the lower back (lumbar region) and the neck (cervical region).

Although cervical disc disease is generally a slow process, a herniated disc sometimes can occur after a traumatic back or neck injury, bringing with it a more complicated and protracted healing process. Sometimes the disc ruptures or bulges outward. This places pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves leading out from the spinal cord. This condition is referred to as a herniated or “slipped” disc.

When this happens, if the injury is due to someone’s negligent behavior – such as a car accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice – the injured victim rightfully can file an insurance claim against the negligent defendant.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Traumatic Disc Degeneration

The severity of intervertebral disc degeneration impacts how it is treated. It is not unusual for this condition to have no symptoms, even immediately after an accident; only to later appear weeks or months after the injury. The explanation for this non-occurrence is that the accident likely caused some degeneration, but the patient did not experience acute symptoms immediately after the accident.

Traumatic neck and lower back injuries involving discs are also called soft-tissue injuries. And not only they can be difficult to diagnose, but also sometimes X-rays, MRIs or CAT scans can fail to detect them. Even if a diagnosis is elusive, patients can be in enough pain that a normal work or personal life could be difficult, if not impossible.

When symptoms occur, physical therapy is usually the first treatment option. If unsuccessful, trigger point or facet injections and – depending on the doctor and patient preferences – acupuncture or acupressure might be part of the treatment. If the condition does not improve after all these non-invasive options, spinal fusion surgery is common.

Difficulties in Bringing a Successful “Whiplash” Case

Often when doctors discover a degenerative disc disease in an accident victim who never had back pain before, the insurance company is quick to point out that the accident is not the source of the pain. And they can be successful in convincing the jury that the pain was due to a pre-existing degenerative disc disease. This is why it’s imperative that your Cook County back injury lawyer works closely with your doctor (ideally an orthopedic surgeon), along with your lawyer’s medical experts to present your case persuasively and that you begin treatment immediately upon experiencing pain.

Finally, symptoms of traumatic disc degeneration may not appear until much later after an accident, so consider Illinois’ statute of limitations in filing an injury claim: “two years from the time the injury is known or ‘should have been known'” [§ 735 ILCS 5/13-202]. This is important to remember because though you “should have known” that you were or could have been injured in an accident that occurred, for example, three years ago, but didn’t show symptoms until a few weeks ago, the defendant’s insurance company might try to split hairs with the statute and claim too much time has passed. So having not only a good orthopedist, but also an experienced lawyer in your corner can make all the difference between winning your claim or not.

Damages in a successful personal injury claim can include medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering, though the latter may not be available if your injury occurred at work and you file a workers’ comp claim. Contact Buttafuoco and Associates experienced neck and spine injury attorneys for a free consultation.