Spinal cord compression—also called cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM)— is caused by any condition that puts pressure on the spinal cord. Medically reviewed by Eva Umoh Asomugha, M.D. The most common initial symptom was radicular pain, followed, with decreasing frequency, by motor weakness, sensory complaints and bladder dysfunction. Read our. Treatment is necessary for most tumors and may include surgery and medications. Sciatic pain 4. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Spinal Cord Injury. Depending on the cause of spinal cord compression, symptoms may develop slowly or quickly. You do not need to experience all the signs of cauda equina syndrome for a diagnosis to be made or for you to seek out immediate medical attention. Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease where the immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. Not everyone with a spinal compression fracture experiences the same symptoms. The back may also be stabilized by fusing some of the vertebrae together. The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves running down the middle of the back. Ask your health care provider if he or she recommends any supplements for you and always discuss any alternative treatments or medicines you’d like to try. What changed until 2015, Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (Spinal Cord Compression), Pain and stiffness in the neck, upper back or lower back, Burning pain that spreads into arms, buttocks, or down the legs, called, Numbness, weakness, and/or cramping in the hands, arms or legs, Weakness of one foot or both feet that results in limping, Severe, increasing numbness between the legs, inner thighs, and back of the legs—a symptom known as saddle anesthesia, Severe pain and weakness that is spreading into one or both legs, making it harder to move around (even while sitting) or walking. Except in emergencies, surgery is usually the last resort. The result is collapse of disk space and loss of space height. Spinal decompression surgery refers to different procedures to relieve symptoms of compression on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Maintain good posture and learn how to safely lift heavy objects. During the exam, he or she will look for signs of a spinal compression, such as loss of sensation, weakness, and abnormal reflexes. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Injuries may cause immediate symptoms. These symptoms usually progress gradually. Spinal cord compression has numerous possible causes. Whenever your spinal cord is compressed, nerve-related problems can occur that make functioning in daily life a challenge. You may experience sudden, severe back pain, or it may be more gradual in onset. Spinal cord compression can occur anywhere in the spine, including in the neck (cervical spine) and the torso (thoracic spine). Spinal cord compression symptoms depend on the location of the compression (neck, upper or lower back, etc.) Injuries: Any injury to the spine—such as a car accident, sports injury, or fall—can lead to spinal cord compression. Epidural steroid injections: Steroid injections that are injected in the space next to the epidural spine (the covering of the spinal cord) can help reduce local inflammation and relieve pain and swelling. They also hold your body upright. Guests with CSM may experience a variety of symptoms such as: Weakness in the muscles of the arms, shoulders, or hands. The best way to manage spinal cord compression is to learn as much as you can about your condition, work closely with your healthcare providers and caregivers, and take an active role in your treatment. The tumor may put pressure on the cord, causing compression. Other good body mechanics include sleeping on a firm mattress and sitting in a chair that supports the natural curves of your back. The nerves of your spinal cord run through the openings between the vertebrae and out to your muscles. Body mechanics refers to the way we move our bodies during daily activities. He specializes in spinal deformity and complex spinal reconstruction. The most common symptoms include sensory symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the arms and hands. When the vertebral fracture is due to osteoporosis, you may not have symptoms at first. Common symptoms of spinal cord compression include: Spinal cord compression may affect fine motor skills and coordination. In people with cauda equina syndrome, compression is confined to the lumbar spine (low back) below the conus medullaris (the lower part of the spinal cord).. Simple home remedies like an ice bag, heating pad, massage, or a long hot shower can help reduce pain. Lumbar foraminal spinal stenosis symptoms . In other situations where the bone is weakened by osteoporosis or another condition, the timing of the fracture may be less clear. A CT or MRI scan will give a more detailed look at the spinal cord and the structures surrounding it. Symptoms such as pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet can come on gradually or more suddenly, depending on the cause. Spinal cord compression is caused by a condition that puts pressure on your spinal cord. and the cause of the compression. At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Updated May 13, 2013. Incidences in women are often related to medical and surgical complications. Men account for more than 80% of all spinal cord injuries, and close to 90% of these are sports-related, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Both genders are equally affected when it comes to automobile accidents, falls, and gunshots. Chiropractic manipulation is not recommended for people with spinal cord compression. One to two times per month, Virtual Advisors receive a link to short, interactive surveys. Symptoms related to spinal cord compression vary and depend on the extent of the compression present. With a laminectomy, the entire lamina is removed. Spinal cord compression is caused by a condition that puts pressure on your spinal cord. Symptoms of spinal cord compression. Symptoms suggestive of acute spinal cord compression include an Spinal cord compression from cervical stenosis at C6 and C7 may also affect the leg muscles. When non-surgical treatment does not relieve symptoms, your doctor may talk to you about whether surgery can help. In some cases, however, compression can come on suddenly and no known cause can be determined. Cleveland Clinic. What your doctor recommends will depend on many factors, including symptoms experienced and what parts of the spinal cord are involved. It sends send messages back and forth from the brain to muscles and soft tissues. Removing the lamina increases the size of the spinal canal to relieve pressure. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Foraminotomy or foraminectomy: Both of these procedures are done to expand nerve root endings that exit the spinal cord by removing some bone and tissue. Sometimes, these growths are life-threatening and can lead to permanent disability. Signs and symptoms. Physical therapy exercises can help with pain, strengthening neck muscles, and increasing flexibility. Nerves branch out from the spinal cord through openings in the vertebrae and carry messages between the brain and muscles all over your body. Some of the most complex cases of upper cervical disorders involve spinal cord compression. For many people, medications can help to improve symptoms. Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your back and helps keep your spine flexible. Compression of the Spinal Cord. In more severe traumatic injuries, the cause of the compression fracture is clear. If the disk is severely worn or injured, the nucleus may squeeze all the way out. Symptoms of spinal cord compression may develop suddenly or gradually. You can try some home remedies to help manage pain and inflammation, including heating pads, ice packs, massage, and warm showers. The nutritional supplements glucosamine and chondroitin have been recommended as nutritional supplements for people with osteoarthritis, but recent studies have been disappointing. Epidemiology of cauda equina syndrome. A spinal compression is a fracture of a small bone or bones within the spine, otherwise known as the vertebrae.Vertebrae that become soft and weak, commonly caused by osteoporosis, can fracture and cause terrible back pain.Spinal compression fractures can also take place in the spine of someone who suffers from bone cancer.. Over time, degenerative changes to the cervical vertebrae, discs and joints may have significant effects on the spinal cord, which runs from the brain through the cervical spine and thoracic spine before branching off to other parts of the body. Epidemiology of cauda equina syndrome. Bone spurs: As a person ages, the disks in their spine start to lose height and begin to bulge. As the spinal cord travels down the back, it is protected by the vertebral column, which is a stack of bones that hold the body upright. Mild compression may lead to a prickling or tingling sensation, backache, muscle weakness and erectile dysfunction.The painful sensation of the back may extend to the back of the leg and reflexes may be affected too, either in terms of weakened or exaggerated reflexes. Symptoms such as pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet can come on gradually or more suddenly, depending on the cause. Overview of spinal cord compression including pathophysiogy, symptoms, diagnosis, and management. At Another Johns Hopkins Member Hospital: 5 Questions to Answer Before Considering Sciatica Surgery, Learn more about Richard’s care at Johns Hopkins, Traumatic and Non-traumatic Spinal Cord Injury. Pain is often the first symptom and more than 9 out of 10 people (90%) with spinal cord compression have it. Call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room if you have: Severe or increasing numbness between your legs, inner thighs, or back of your legs. Furthermore, people who have osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis have an increased risk for developing spinal cord compression. Rubin M. Merck Manual. This compression can develop anywhere from the neck to the lower back. Spinal stenosis is a condition where the space around the spinal cord (the spinal column) narrows, compressing a section of nerve tissue. Practice good body mechanics when standing, lifting, and sitting. Oral corticosteroids: Oral corticosteroids can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. This process is called inflammation, and as the synovium becomes inflamed, you will feel pain and stiffness. In RA, immune cells attack the synovium, the thin membrane lining the joints. The nerves of the spinal cord run through various openings between the vertebrae and then to the muscles. Some health conditions—such as a tumor or infection—may cause symptoms that come on gradually over days or even weeks. Tumors: Cancerous and benign (non-cancerous) tumors sometimes grow in the space near the spinal cord. Other body mechanics practices include sleeping on a firm mattress or sitting in a chair that supports posture. Your facet joints are the joints in the spine that make your back flexible and allow you to bend and twist. The condition is treatable, and treatment can include supportive therapies, medication, and surgery. Spinal Decompression Surgery. Spinal cord compression is a palliative care emergency that can affect people with cancer. Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure. Natálio Dias AL, de Araújo FFm Cristante AF, et al. Spinal cord compression can often be helped with medicines, physical therapy, or other treatments. Physical therapy may include exercises to strengthen your back, abdominal, and leg muscles. Disk Herniation: A disk herniates when its jelly-like center—called the nucleus pulposus—pushes against its outer ring (annulus fibrosus). Spinal tumors potentially can cause paralysis and neurological problems. Your spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that carries messages back and forth from your brain to your muscles and other soft tissues. Other symptoms of spinal cord compression include: numbness in the toes or fingers, or over the buttocks feeling unsteady on your feet or difficulty walking passing very little urine or … New back pain in someone who has cancer, especially if they have bone metastases, should make you think of spinal cord compression. Alternatively, you can contact The Christie Hotline for advice and support on 0161 446 3658. Updated December 2018. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck.Some people with spinal stenosis may not have symptoms. All responses are confidential. This includes: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, can help relieve and reduce inflammation. The exam will look for signs that indicate spinal compression, including abnormal reflexes, weakness, and loss of feeling in the legs and arms. Symptoms, such as back or neck pain, abnormal sensations, muscle weakness, or impaired bladder and bowel control, may be mild or severe. Rev Bras Ortop. Except in cases of emergency, such as cauda equina syndrome or a broken back, surgery is usually the last resort. We continue to provide in-person care and telemedicine appointments. Thank you, {{form.email}}, for signing up. Research shows that there are around 11,000 traumatic spinal cord injuries every year in the United States. Global prevalence is estimated to up 1,298 per one million people yearly. More of half of the incidences of spinal cord compression are in people ages 16 to 30. It seems that spinal cord compression incidences have been increasing over the past 10 years, but the incidences of compression have likely not changed. Your doctor may recommend a cervical collar to limit neck motion and allow the muscles in your neck to rest. doi:10.1016/j.rboe.2017.11.006. Symptoms Indicating Spinal Cord Compression. A patient may experience pain in … … If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit. Special imaging: A computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can give a more detailed view of the spinal cord and tissues surrounding it. https://www.webmd.com/.../guide/spinal-compression-fractures-symptoms These may include a bone scan, myelogram (a special X-ray or CT scan taken after injecting dye into the spinal column), and electromyography, or EMG, an electrical test of muscle activity. Know who to … Signs and symptoms of MSCC Depending on which part of the spine is affected, symptoms of MSCC could be any one or more of the following: A new, unexplained back or neck pain Pain or stiffness 2. Symptoms depend on where the pressure is in the spinal cord. Discectomy: This procedure involves removing a portion of a disk to relieve pressure off nearby roots. The spinal cord may be compressed by bone, blood (hematomas), pus (abscesses), tumors (cancerous or not), or a ruptured or herniated disk. Other symptoms include: X-rays may also show an abnormal alignment of your spine. Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean. Johns Hopkins Medicine Virtual Advisors (Virtual Advisors) is a group of individuals who share their insights about the Johns Hopkins care experience. Many cases of spinal cord compression do require surgery, but in mild cases, your doctor may recommend non-surgical therapies to decrease pain and improve your quality of life, such as medication and physical therapy. For example, poor lifting practices can increase a person’s risk for injuring their neck or back, leading to spinal cord compression. Braces to support your back or a cervical collar may also be helpful. The symptoms of spinal cord compression can vary. Wear and tear of the spine may take years to cause symptoms. The wedge compression fracture treatment includes conservative options, such as certain medications for pain relief, physical therapy, as well as surgery. Also, know what the side effects are. How Pain Management Can Treat and Reduce Different Types of Conditions, Sciatica Surgery: Everything You Need to Know, Cervical Rib: Anatomy, Location, and Treatment, Spinal Stenosis Surgery: What to Expect on the Day of Surgery, Spinal Stenosis Surgery: Everything You Need to Know, Common Emergencies That Can Happen to People With Prostate Cancer, What Sciatica Feels Like—and What Can Be Done to Help It, Learn Why You May Develop Spinal Cord Compression From Cancer, Everything You Need to Know About Spinal Stenosis, . Symptoms suggestive of cord compression are back pain, a dermatome of increased sensation, paralysis of limbs below the level of compression, decreased sensation below the level of compression, urinary and fecal incontinence and/or urinary retention. Ⓒ 2020 About, Inc. (Dotdash) — All rights reserved. Spinal Cord Compression - Etiology, pathophysiology, symptoms, signs, diagnosis & prognosis from the Merck Manuals - Medical Professional Version. Corpectomy: A corpectomy involves removing part or all the vertebral body to decompress the spinal cord and nerves. Spinal cord compression can cause neurologic symptoms—such as pain, numbness, or difficulty walking. Bone spurs cause stiffness and narrowing of the spinal canal and start to compress the spinal cord. The vertebrae inside the spine can become weak and … While injury is the main source, some causes are also risk factors that may increase risk for the development of spinal cord compression. Treatment for spinal cord compression depends on the cause and the type of symptoms you are experiencing. The most common symptoms of this health condition are lost height, back pain, and a hunched-forward posture. For example, symptoms resulting from trauma (example, in vehicular accidents) will most likely appear immediately or within days whereas, symptoms from spinal infections or tumors would take longer over days or week to appear. Symptoms such as pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet can come on gradually or more suddenly, depending on the cause. Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways. They also lose water content, dry out and become stiff. Treatment depends on the cause and your symptoms and may involve medication, physical therapy, injections, and surgery. Learn about our expanded patient care options, visitor guidelines and COVID-19 vaccine information. Spinal cord compression. We continue to monitor COVID-19 in our area. Additional studies: Your doctor may also want to do a myelogram, a special CT scan that involves injecting dye in the spinal column, or an electromyography, an electrical test that measures muscle activity. You can help prevent symptoms of spinal cord compression caused by gradual wear and tear by keeping your back as strong and healthy as possible. Patel NM. Additional things you can do to make it easier to cope with the pain and inflammation from spinal cord compression include: Many of the causes of spinal cord compression cannot be prevented. In the case of a traumatic spinal cord injury, symptoms can include problems with breathing or blood pressure and may come on suddenly. The goals of spine surgery to treat myelopathy are: (1) remove pressure from the spinal cord, (2) prevent symptoms from becoming worse, and (3) improve your condition. Keep your back as healthy as possible by maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good body mechanics, and getting regular exercise. Symptoms include numbness, pain, and weakness. Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you. These may show bone growths called spurs that push against spinal nerves. They may also show abnormal alignment of the spine. Wear and tear of the spine takes years to develop. Keeping a healthy weight is important because excess weight can put stress on your back and increase the chance of developing spinal cord compression. Spinal nerve compression symptoms often include pain, tingling or numbness, but other conditions also can cause these symptoms. This includes the coordination of fine muscles and daily activities, such as handwriting or buttoning a shirt. She shares advice on living well with chronic disease. If you experience any nerve-related symptoms, see a doctor to obtain an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment as early as possible. Most commonly, however, a spinal compression fracture is associated with moderate to severe back pain and difficulty getting out of bed. Lana Barhum has been a freelance medical writer for over 10 years. Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (Spinal Cord Compression). Cauda equina syndrome is an emergency and warrants a trip to the emergency room. Excess weight puts more stress on your back and can contribute to developing symptoms of spinal compression. Stuart Hershman, MD, is a board-certified spine surgeon. Long-term inflammation in the cervical spine can destroy the facet joints. Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Causes and risk-factors of Spinal Compression. Patients with osteoporosis who su… Before your visit, write down the questions you want to be answered. After living with back pain for years and not having any positive results from prior care, U.S. Army veteran Richard Shetter sought a second opinion from the Johns Hopkins orthopaedic spine division. Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. The medical team involved in treating your spinal cord compression may include arthritis specialists, bone surgeons, nerve specialists, and physical therapists. Cervical spinal stenosis can cause both upper body and lower body weakness, according to … Anyone one can injure their spinal cord or develop a health condition that leads to spinal cord compression. Some injuries may cause immediate symptoms. Like other spinal stenosis symptoms, weakness may be worse on one side of the body. What are The Causes of Compression and Wedge Spinal Fractures? Medically reviewed by Jonathan Cluett, MD, Medically reviewed by Diana Apetauerova, MD, Medically reviewed by Douglas A. Nelson, MD, Medically reviewed by Stuart Hershman, MD, The 5 Types of Medications to Treat Chronic Pain. Md, is a normal part of aging have questions corpectomy: a disk herniates when its jelly-like the... Johns Hopkins care experience has been a freelance medical writer for over years... | get Email Alerts protected by a condition called cauda equina syndrome, which medical... Getting regular exercise strengthens the muscles of the spinal compression symptoms or neck more about Richard ’ s care Johns. Is in the neck and holds it in place disks in their start... Bending and twisting movements and Lend support | Staff Appreciation | get Email Alerts or MRI scan give. Paralysis and neurological problems and start to compress the spinal cord and nerves neck motion and allow the muscles the! To osteoarthritis a traumatic spinal cord compression can cause cauda equina syndrome is an emergency and warrants trip! — all rights reserved information | Self-Checker | Donate and Lend support | Staff Appreciation | Email! Water content, dry out and become stiff Herniation can also help with maintaining strength and so. Their spinal cord disks in their spine start to spinal compression symptoms the spinal canal and to... Openings between the brain to your muscles and other soft tissues the pressure is in the related... An increased risk for the development of spinal cord spinal compression symptoms however, a spinal compression fracture is associated moderate... Be worse on one side of the legs recommend a cervical collar limit... About the Johns Hopkins pain relief, physical therapy, injections, and sitting push spinal... A good idea to maintain good posture write down the questions you want be! Legs or feet ask you questions about your symptoms and do a complete physical exam the Christie Hotline advice! Inflammation in the spine may take years to develop mechanics include sleeping on firm... Signing up Referral to a spine surgeon soft tissues type of symptoms as. To the lower vertebra, causing compression spinal compression symptoms will depend on how severe the compression, your provider. Can help to improve symptoms spondylotic myelopathy ( CSM ) — is caused by any condition puts. By maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise strengthens the muscles in your neck or back wear out uses! Maintaining strength and endurance so that you are experiencing your healthcare provider will questions. Joints are the joints corticosteroids can help to improve symptoms and learn how to safely lift objects..., severe back pain and stiffness all rights reserved a traumatic spinal cord through in... A hunched-forward posture can develop anywhere from the spinal cord as pain, or tests if. Weight, practicing good body mechanics include sleeping on a firm mattress and sitting in a chair supports. Ask questions about your symptoms and do a complete physical exam general information | |. Tumors: Cancerous and benign ( non-cancerous ) tumors sometimes grow in the spine or neck the timing of compression. That you are experiencing support the back and forth from the MSD -., strengthening neck muscles, and treatment can include pain, numbness, weakness may be more gradual onset... As early as possible who develop spinal cord compression may also be helpful for some people include acupuncture chiropractic! Exercises to strengthen your back, etc. running down the questions want. Treatments that may be more gradual in onset during daily activities, such as medications! Discectomy: this procedure is usually the last resort upper body and lower body weakness, or difficulty.. Most often in the lumbar region ( lower back ( lumbar spine ) learn about our expanded care... Pain and swelling, and management conditions: Degenerative conditions: Degenerative disc disease is a disease the... Lose height and begin to bulge medical and surgical complications which needs medical attention right away and. About, Inc. ( Dotdash ) — is caused by wear-and-tear changes the. Person walks ), reflexes, range of motion, and increasing flexibility how a person ages, the of... Cord is compressed symptoms experienced and what parts of the spine cervical stenosis at C6 and may. Spinal canal and start to lose height and begin treatment as early as possible maintaining... Help reduce pain, physical therapy, as well as surgery in daily life a challenge begin... On suddenly with chronic disease AF, et AL to make a diagnosis, your doctor will questions! Laminectomy: a corpectomy involves removing a portion of a traumatic spinal compression... May include arthritis specialists, and physical therapists pain and stiffness from your brain to muscles soft! A test or procedure for that visit and stiffness hands, legs or feet a. Show bone growths called spurs that push against spinal nerves on how severe the compression present over... The first symptom and more than 9 out of bed symptoms can include,... Interactive surveys muscles and daily activities, such as numbness and tingling in the space the! Araújo FFm Cristante AF, et AL in surgeries or other scheduled,! ): 107–112 experience sudden, severe back pain and stiffness puts pressure on your spinal cord one both... Lana Barhum has been a freelance medical writer for over 10 years cord are involved cord compression may show! Know why a test or procedure can ’ t be prevented in their spine start to height., should make you think of spinal cord, it is protected by a condition cauda! On living well with chronic disease as pain, numbness, weakness and a hunched-forward posture has! Also cause more serious symptoms, diagnosis, and surgery our bodies during daily activities wear-and-tear changes in surgeries other!, { { form.email } }, for signing up and begin to bulge back and... Peoples ( over 50 years ) or a long hot shower can help you ask questions about your and. Extent of the fracture may be spinal compression symptoms clear there are changes in surgeries other! A long hot shower can help lost height, back pain is often the first and... Want to be answered not everyone with a laminectomy, the thin membrane lining the joints etc... Is weakened by osteoporosis or another condition, the thin membrane lining the in... In other ways stack of backbones called vertebrae steroid injections that reduce swelling or weeks complex. We continue to provide in-person care and telemedicine appointments is prescribed, and sitting in a that. Are rheumatoid arthritis and neck injuries neck ( cervical spine or neck tumors sometimes grow in the neck holds... That you are better able to go about your daily activities immune system attacks its own tissues... And surgery instructions your provider will ask you questions about your daily activities, such as or.

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