Spinal Cord Compression

Your spinal cord is the lifeline between your brain and the rest of your body. The brain sends the messages to the spinal cord and its nerves relay them to the rest of your body. The spinal cord is protected by your vertebrae and your spinal column but issues can arise that put pressure on the spinal cord, causing compression.

Such compression may occur at any point along the spinal cord, from the neck to the lower back. A spinal cord compression doctor can examine you and give you a definite diagnosis so appropriate treatment can begin.

Causes of Compression of the Spinal Cord

Spinal cord compression may relate to various causes. The most common include:

  • Broken vertebrae – broken or dislocated vertebrae may put pressure on the spinal cord
  • Osteoarthritis – the wear and tear on spinal bones most often affects older people
  • Hematoma – this blood accumulation around the spinal cord may result in compression
  • Herniated discs – when the gel-like interior of a disc ruptures or herniates, through the tough outer shell, the disk may pressure the spine’s nerve roots, causing pain, and possibly compress the spinal cord
  • Infection – an abscess due to infection may compress the spinal cord as pus accumulates
  • Tumors – growths, benign or malignant, may impinge upon the spinal cord

Symptoms

Spinal cord compression symptoms may worsen gradually over time, or appear suddenly. In a worst-case scenario, a person with a compressed spinal cord may become paralyzed. Symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Odd sensations
  • Impotence
  • Numbness
  • Hand coordination problems

Some people may also experience bowel and/or bladder dysfunction as a result of spinal cord compression. This may make them incontinent, or unable to control their bowels or bladder. Bowel or bladder dysfunction is always a medical emergency requiring immediate attention.

Diagnosing and Treating This Condition

After taking a medical history and performing a physical exam, the doctor will have further diagnostic tests conducted. These generally include X-rays to reveal fractures or bone spurs of vertebrae and MRIs or CT scans to view the soft tissues around the spinal cord and other structures. A blood test will reveal the presence of infection.

Treatment for spinal cord compression depends on the diagnosis. Some conditions, such as those involving bladder and bowel dysfunction, require prompt surgical intervention. Other conditions, such as infections, may be treated with antibiotics. Tumors require excision, and if malignant, further treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy.

For milder compression cases, the doctor may recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain control and a physical therapy regimen for back strengthening.

Preventing Compression of the Spinal Cord

Not all types of spinal cord compression are preventable, but there are ways to lower the risk factor. This includes regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. The former maintains back flexibility, while the latter takes pressure off the joints. Keep good posture in mind at all times and learn how to lift items properly to avoid back strain.

Speaking with a Spinal Cord Compression Doctor

If you are experiencing symptoms of spinal cord compression, call a spinal doctor today and arrange an appointment. They can work with you to help determine the source of your pain. You do not have to live with the discomfort of spinal cord compression, a doctor can help.