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What is Traumatic Radiculopathy?

By Matt Lalande in Personal Injury on March 20, 2021

What is Traumatic Radiculopathy?

In our practice, we often see accident victims who suffer terrible neurological difficulties after being involved in a serious accident.  Over the years we have seen many victims who have been involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents and particularly accidents involving pedestrians who get hit by cars and suffer serious spinal related trauma such as disc herniations, disc bulges, protruding discs and disc extrusions which, in turn, can cause narrowing of the space where nerve roots exit your spine. When this happens, it’s often said that the nerve has become has become irritated or compressed – otherwise called radiculopathy.

What is Traumatic Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is a very painful condition which occurs when a nerve gets irritated or compressed (often called “pinched”) as it exits the spinal column, and as a result can pain, discomfort, numbness, tingling and weakness. Radiculopathy can occur at many levels, but mostly occurs in the lumbar and cervical or lumbar spine. Radiculopathy can be caused by non-traumatic means, such as disc degeneration, tumors, non-cancerous growths, sciatica, compression fractures, scolliosis or spinal stenosis.

Traumatic radiculopathy can also occur when a person experiences trauma  to the spine – such as with an accident related disk herniation which in turn cause compression or pinching of the nerves which exit the spine. The spinal cord consists of 33 different bones (vertebrae) that are cushioned by discs, with a network of nerve roots stemming from the vertebrae out through the rest of the body. These nerve roots communicate signals from the brain to the body. When the spinal cord suffers damage, such as from a blow in an accident, the discs can shift and damage or compress nearby nerve roots, thus cutting off those signals to the body.  Burst or compression fractures of the spine commonly cause disc issues.

Where does Radiculopathy most commonly occur?

As noted above, radiculopathy can occur at many levels, but the condition mostly occurs in the lumbar and cervical or lumbar spine.

Cervical Radiculopathy: Cervical radiculopathy is a clinical condition resulting from compression of cervical nerve roots.This occurs when the damage occurs to the nerve roots in the cervical spine (the neck), or the shoulder area, and it’s the most likely area of injury to impact neurological function.  Accident victims who suffer from cervical radiculopathy typically present with neck pain, arm pain, or both.

Thoracic Radiculopathy: This occurs when nerve roots are damaged in the thoracic spine (the largest part of the spinal cord located in the torso and upper back). Thoracic radiculopathy is quite uncommon as compared to cervical or lumbar radiculopathy. It is moreso degenerative disc disease and diabetes mellitus which frequently cause radiculopathy at the thoracic level.

Lumbar Radiculopathy:  Lumbar radiculopathy (nerve compression in your lower back) is a very common complaint reviewed by orthopedic surgeons. In one peer reviewed article from the Medical Journal Cureus, lumbar radiculopathy prevalence has been estimated to be 3%-5% of the population, affecting both men and women. Age is a primary risk factor, as it occurs secondary to the degenerative process within the spinal column. Symptoms typically begin in midlife, with men often affected in the 40s while women are affected in the 50s and 60s.  Overall, Lumbosacral radiculopathy is most often caused by lumbar disc herniation or lumbar spinal stenosis.

What are some symptoms of traumatic radiculopathy?

Depending on which area of the spinal cord has been damaged, symptoms of radiculopathy may present in certain areas moreso than others. For example, cervical radiculopathy often presents symptoms in the hands and arms because the cervical spine contains the majority of the nerves that control these functions. Lumbar radiculopathy symptoms often present in the lower extremities, including the hips, knees, and legs. Thoracic radiculopathy symptoms typically occur in the chest, abdomen, and torso.

The most prominent symptoms of radiculopathy are:

  • Sharp pains in the impacted area which may worsen with activity.
  • Paresthesia (abnormal sensations such as tingling or “pins and needles”).
  • Weakness, numbness, or loss of flexibility.
  • Paralysis or loss of sensation.
  • Loss of bowel and/or bladder control.
  • Hypersensitivity.
  • Lack of coordination or reflexes.

It’s important to note that the specific type of injury to the spinal cord will determine the type of symptoms the victim will experience. For example, radiculopathy caused by Cauda Equina Syndrome can lead to symptoms such as urinary incontinence and lower extremity paralysis, while Central Cord Syndrome may lead to paralysis in the upper extremities, numbness in the hands, or muscle stiffness.

When an individual receives a diagnosis for radiculopathy, they will usually begin nonsurgical treatment options unless the condition or injury is severe or life-threatening. This may include pain medication or steroid injections, physical therapy, weight loss, or other medications. Surgical treatments are generally aimed at reducing the pressure to the nerves through widening the space in the spine or removing part of the disc in the surrounding area.

Can I Get Compensation For Traumatic Radiculopathy if I was hurt by someone else?

The short answer is maybe.  The first thing to consider is that you need to speak to a qualified personal injury lawyer. If you are successful in proving your case against a defendant, you would then be entitled to damages. Depending on your losses, your personal injury lawyer and you would determine what damages to claim. For example, if you can no longer work or your work life has been negatively impacted because of the severity of your injuries, then you would be entitled to claim loss of wages.

If you suffered life changing injuries, you would be entitled to claim compensation such as:

  • Pain and suffering (physical and mental).
  • Loss of quality or duration of life.
  • Loss of interdependent relationships.
  • Loss of amenity.
  • Loss of expectation of life.
  • Future care (outside of OHIP and of accident benefit entitlements).
  • Loss of housekeeping and home maintenance.
  • Past and future loss of income.
  • Past and future loss of competitive advantage or career opportunity.
  • Past and future cost of personal care, housekeeping and/or home maintenance.
  • Past and future cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation and diagnosis and
  • any other financial losses which flow from the tortious conduct of the defendant and can be calculated in monetary terms

No matter which area of the spine is impacted, traumatic radiculopathy can a be a serious and painful impairment which can have a substantial long-term impact on a victim’s life, from economic losses due to missed work, skyrocketing medical expenses and physical and emotional pain and suffering.

If you have suffered severe nerve compression or a spinal cord injury after an accident that someone else caused, you have the right to hold them accountable and file a claim for compensation. While financial compensation can’t fix your physical injuries, it can certainly alleviate some of the stress you’re facing with bills, mortgage payments, household expenses, medical care costs, and more. During a time like this, stress can have a major impact on your recovery.

A diagnosis of nerve compression can impact your personal injury claim because it will require the consideration of future medical expenses and costs, as well as future income losses. However, since it is also caused by spinal degeneration that comes with aging, it can be difficult to convince your insurance carrier that your pain and suffering was directly caused by the accident. A good Hamilton personal injury lawyer can help you calculate the true value of your claim and make sure no costs are overlooked.

If you’ve been hurt, contact our Hamilton Personal Injury Lawyers for help – today.

Although many degenerative conditions such as disk degeneration (wear and tear), infections, tumors, neurologic vascular and inflammatory diseases are often common suspects of radiculopathy, trauma is often a factor on why nerves in your neck and back become compressed.  Accident -related trauma is often the culprit of herniated discs. Herniated discs are “flexible cushions” which act as shock absorbers. When these discs are damaged, they can rip, tear or swell. The swelling could push into the spinal canal, or could irritate or inflame a nerve exiting the vertebrae, causing radicular pain. This pain, as we have seen with past clients could be absolutely life-changing. If the pain persists, or worsens with nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may in fact recommend surgery with the goal of decompressing or relieving pressure on the compressed nerves in your neck, middle or lower back.

We have seen time and time again, victims involved in serious accidents, particularly car accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents and motorcycle accidents often end up with serious spinal damage and trauma -related compression of the nerves.

If you are loved one has been involved in a serious accident and has undergone surgery, such as a laminectomy or any other type of cervical, lumbar or thoracic decompression surgery, it’s important that you retain a lawyer in order to assist in recovering damages, such as your wage losses, wage losses into the family and more importantly, the wage losses that you make experience in the future.

We have been taught by top material orthopedic surgeons, that although many trauma victims with radiculopathy serious enough to warrant surgery do have excellent postoperative results, some do not. Studies have shown that although victims can demonstrate significant immediate improvement, the clinical relevance of this is not overly clear. Studies have shown that many who have undergone radicular related decompression surgery, particularly with comorbidities, showed deterioration in the condition as soon as five years post surgery. This above and below the decompression surgery site often become irritated, along with degenerative factors and unfortunately pain levels return.

If you have been hurt in a serious accident, contact us today. We have been representing accident victims since 2003. Our personal injury lawyers are based in Hamilton, but represent clients all over Ontario. Feel free to email us through our website, or call us today provincewide at 1-844-LALANDE or local in the Hamilton/GTA at 905-333-8888. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.

1 King Street East, Suite 1705

Hamilton, On L8P 1A4

*The above information was approved by Matt Lalande or another lawyer at Lalande Personal Injury Lawyers. The information comes from legal experience, trial experience, extensive medical research and discussion with medical professionals, medical journal review and updates and/or consultations with fellow friends and colleagues in the legal and medical field.



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