Herniated Disc


The Alexandria, Virginia Car Accident: Herniated Disc Injury

You are driving your car northbound on Route 1 in Alexandria, Virginia. Suddenly, a car from the opposite direction turns into your path. You apply your brakes really hard, but there is no time. You hear the loud sound of crashing metal. Your body is jolted back and forth. Your doctor has diagnosed you with a herniated disc. What happened to cause your herniated disc injury?

Herniated Disc Injuries 101: The Basics

Alexandria personal injury lawyer Gerald Schwartz has spent 30 years as a Virginia herniated disc injury attorney handling ruptured disc cases in Arlington and across Northern Virginia.. He has written a book, published by the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, explaining herniated disc injuries to attorneys and staff which is now in the 3rd edition. Gerald Schwartz has taught personal injury attorneys all over Virginia to handle herniated disc injury cases. Join accident lawyer Gerald Schwartz as he explains the basics of herniated disc injuries.

The Intervertebral Spinal Disc

Our spine consists of 33 bones call vertebrae.

A spinal disc acts as a shock absorber between two vertebrae. One vertebra is on top, another vertebra is on the bottom, and the spinal disc is in the middle, analogous to a “vertebrae sandwich.” Because the disc fits in the middle, between bony vertebrae, the disc is called an “intervertebral disc.” This “vertebral sandwich” is referred to by spine surgeons as “the functional unit” of the spine.

A spinal disc is like a jelly doughnut. The inside center of the disc is made up of a jelly-like substance. This jelly-like center of the disc is called the “nucleus pulposus.” The outside of the disc is like the tough outside layer of a jelly doughnut. Its job is to hold the jelly, which is under pressure, inside the disc. The outside layer of the disc is called the “annulus fibrosis.” It consists of fibrocartilage and fibrous protein. This outer layer is weaker in the back of the disc (posterior) than in front (anterior). This explains why forces from a car accident cause most discs to herniate in the back at the disc’s weakest spot, rather than in front.

How Auto Accidents Cause Herniated Disc Injuries

Forces from auto, truck and motorcycle accidents often tear the outside layer of the spinal disc, the annulus fibrosis. Since the jelly inside the center of a spinal disc is under pressure, any tear in the outer layer of the disc causes the jelly in the center to be squeezed out of the disc -- like toothpaste being squeezed out from its tube.


Whenever personal injury lawyers review medical records of a client who has suffered a herniated or ruptured disc injury from an auto accident, they routinely encounter the term “HNP.”

Physicians abbreviate a herniated disc “HNP.” This abbreviation is regularly found in medical records. “HNP” stands for “herniated nucleus pulposus.” The nucleus pulposus is the jelly-like center of the disc.

Mr. Schwartz, why is a herniated disc abbreviated “HNP ?”

To find the answer, look to the anatomical cause for a disc herniation. The inside jell-like center of the disc is squeezed out of the disc from a tear in the disc’s outer layer. The inside jelly, the “nucleus pulposus,” (abbreviated “NP”) is said to herniate (abbreviated “H”) through a tear in the outer layer of the disc. That is why a herniated disc is abbreviated “HNP” in medical records.

Terms Doctors Use to Describe a Herniated Disc

Physicians use several terms, interchangeably, to describe a herniated disc:

  • “HNP”
  • Ruptured Disc
  • Extruded Disc
  • Prolapsed Disc
  • Slipped Disc

Mr. Schwartz, what is a sequestered disc?

Answer: A sequestered disc is a herniated disc where a free fragment of the inside jelly of the nucleus pulposus has broken loose. It is in the spinal canal and is no longer attached to the disc.


Virginia accident lawyer Gerald Schwartz is the author of a reference book for attorneys on neck and back injuries, now in its 3rd Edition, published by the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. Section II, pp. 36-57, discusses herniated disc injuries. To review Gerald Schwartz’s reference book, click “Primer of Neck and Back Injuries for Attorneys and Staff, 3rd Edition.”


Alexandria accident attorney Gerald Schwartz has handled hundreds of herniated (ruptured) disc car accident cases all over Virginia, from Arlington to Fredericksburg. Schwartz is Past President of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.


If you or a family member suffered a herniated disc and need help, call Gerald Schwartz to get straight answers at 1-800-423-0055.