Even at low speeds, car accidents can result in an incredible amount of force being exerted against both vehicles and their occupants. This force can lead to serious and debilitating injuries—such as spinal stenosis—that can further lead to temporary or permanent disability depending on the severity of the condition.
You may have never heard of the term “spinal stenosis,” but if you have been injured in a car accident at some point in your life, you may be at risk for developing this painful condition.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, where the spinal cord lies. The narrowing of the canal presses on both the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots and can be identified by the following symptoms:
- Back pain;
- Weakness in the lower body;
- Pain, burning, numbness and tingling in the legs or buttocks;
- Foot drop while walking; and
- Increased pain while standing or walking.
Depending on the severity of the impact, a car accident can easily damage structures in the lower back. Car accidents can cause spinal stenosis on their own, or exacerbate a pre-existing condition which has already caused spinal canal narrowing.
How is Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?
Although spinal stenosis is one of the most common car accident injuries that affects the spine, it can be one of the most difficult to diagnose. Symptoms may not be readily apparent immediately following a car accident, but it is critical to see a doctor as soon as possible after a car accident—even if you do not believe yourself to be seriously injured.
Doctors usually will attempt to rule out other back injuries from spinal stenosis by first pressing on the areas around the spine to check for pain, as well as taking X-rays of your lower back. While X-rays do not allow doctors to see the soft tissues around or inside the spinal canal, it will show damage to the vertebrae sustained as a result of spinal stenosis.
Your doctor may also order an MRI to look at the spinal cord and the soft tissues around it to confirm a diagnosis. In some cases, other tests may necessary to diagnose spinal stenosis, such as a computed tomography scan or a myelogram.
Treating Spinal Stenosis
The symptoms of spinal stenosis can bring severe pain to victims, and lead to temporary or permanent disability if not treated in a timely manner. Spinal stenosis is typically treated with ongoing, nonsurgical treatment that can result in weeks (if not months) of missed work. In many cases, spinal stenosis can be treated with nonsurgical methods, such as:
- Physical therapy;
- Prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); or
Particularly severe cases may require surgery (and subsequent rehabilitation) that can affect a patient’s mobility for a few weeks after the operation. In these cases, normal activities can usually be resumed eight to twelve weeks after surgery.
In addition to the high medical costs and the intense pain and suffering endured, not being able to work during this time can make recovery expensive and stressful; fortunately, many victims are able to recover the financial damages they suffer from a car accident from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Liability for Spinal Stenosis
Liability for spinal stenosis will depend on the exact circumstances of the car accident you were involved in. Anyone who is experiencing severe pain or symptoms of spinal stenosis after a car accident should seek medical attention immediately in order to rule out other conditions and begin a treatment plan.
In West Virginia, injured plaintiffs may be able to seek compensation for their medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering and other accident-related costs from the driver responsible for their injuries. Because spinal stenosis can cost a significant amount of money to treat, might require time off from work and can possibly require surgery, securing legal compensation for your injuries should be a number one priority after visiting a doctor.
At Johnstone & Gabhart, we are prepared to bring our expert, hands-on approach to your car accident claim in order to see that you are justly compensated for your car accident injuries. For more information, or to discuss your claim with one of our expert personal injury attorneys, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.