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Michael Agruss

Written and Reviewed by Michael Agruss

  • Managing Partner and Personal Injury Lawyer at Mike Agruss Law.
  • Over 20 years of experience in Personal Injury.
  • Over 8000+ consumer rights cases settled.
  • Graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law: Juris Doctor, 2004.

The “lumbar spine” refers to the five vertebrae between the pelvis and rib cage, and its most common generators of pain are the discs and the facet joints. Pain associated with facet joints generally increases with age, while pain in the discs is more common overall. If you are suffering from back pain after an auto accident, it’s helpful to understand these two causes and how they differ.

Discogenic pain is generally caused by acute trauma, such as in an auto accident, or slow deterioration of discs over time. It is most common in the lumbar spine and may also be associated with spasms and pain extending to the buttocks or thighs. Bending, heavy lifting, and excessive movement can worsen these symptoms, so it’s important to get as much rest as you need throughout your recovery. Some spinal disc injuries are minor and can heal in short periods of time, while others can produce chronic pain which may slowly subside throughout recovery.

A full evaluation and diagnosis of a potential back injury are always important due to the wide variety of causes of back pain. Discographies and MRI scans are helpful in identifying degeneration of discs, and anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy are often the first steps for treating discogenic pain. There are also other non-surgical options which can provide long-term relief, such as epidural corticosteroid injections.

Facet joints work together with intervertebral discs to help control movement and support weight between the spine’s individual vertebrae. Pain in the facet joints can occur suddenly and without warning, and is often caused by direct nerve-damage or inflammation, which is why muscle spasms are also associated with this damage; the spasm is the body’s immediate means of protection from further damage. Fortunately, most facet joint damage can be identified with x-rays and other scans. CT scans may be used for greater detail of the affected joints, and MRI scans may be used to identify problems with structures associated with the joints, such as the spine’s discs and ligaments.

For lower back pain in particular, here are some common conditions that cause it and how they are identified:

  • Annular tear – This occurs when the annulus fibrosus – the exterior of a spinal disc – is ripped or torn, which may also result in a bulging or herniated disc.
  • Bulging/protruding disc – This occurs when the nucleus stays within the disc, but a small protrusion extends from the outer layer into the spinal canal, which causes pain when contact is made with a nerve root and/or the spinal cord itself.
  • Herniated/ruptured disc – This occurs when the annulus fibrosus is ripped or torn and the disc’s soft interior (nucleus pulposus) protrudes and comes into contact with nerve roots and/or the spinal cord.
  • Sciatica – This occurs when a herniated/ruptured disc causes pressure on a nerve which travels down the spinal column and splits into nerve fibers in the legs. This pressure can result in lower back pain as well as radiating pain through one leg, and in serious cases it may cause numbness or loss of motor control in the leg due to interrupted nerve-signals.
  • Whiplash – Whiplash, which refers to a variety of soft-tissue strains caused by a sudden and violent jerking motion in the neck, can also result in any of the aforementioned conditions.

Doctors use a number of diagnostic methods to identify and diagnose these injuries, including:

  • Computerized tomography (CT scan) – This is usually a quick and pain-free scan for suspected damage to vertebrae, ruptured discs, or spinal stenosis. In this process, hundreds of two-dimensional “slices” (1mm each) of x-ray images are taken around the spine and then combined to create a three-dimensional image.
  • Discography – A common recommendation for patients who have chronic pain or are considering lumbar surgery, this involves injecting a contrast-dye into a damaged spinal disc to highlight damaged areas and deformities, which can then be seen on x-ray images.
  • Electrodiagnostic testing – These procedures include evoked potential (EP) studies, electromyography (EMG), and nerve-conduction studies. EMGs are able to assess the electrical activity in nerves and determine whether the patient’s muscle-weakness is caused by injury or nerve-damage.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – MRIs can evaluate the lumbar region of the spine for injury, bone-degeneration, and diseases in ligaments, tissues, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. These scans are non-invasive and help doctors to differentiate between fluid, bone, and soft tissue, especially for identifying conditions which may require prompt surgical treatment.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident due to another’s negligence, you need an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact Mike Agruss Law today for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based personal injury law firm, and helping our clients is about counseling, advocating, and ultimately solving problems. With years of experience successfully representing the people and not the powerful, we will file your claim and take care of the insurance company, medical bills, property damage, and lost income. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. Lastly, our personal injury lawyers are not paid attorney fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.

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