Spinal cord compression

Spinal cord compression occurs if a mass puts weight on the cord. The mass might include a bone fragment or tumor. The compression can form anywhere throughout the spinal cord from the neck to the lower spine.

What are the signs?

The signs of spinal cord compression tend to vary. It is usually based on the seriousness of the compression and the site that is compressed.

One of the usual signs is pain or stiffness in the back or neck. Weakness or numbness in the hands, legs and arms can also develop. In some instances, cauda equina syndrome might develop if the lumbar area is affected. Additionally, compression of the spinal cord affects fine motor skills and coordination.

What are the causes?


One of the usual signs is pain or stiffness in the back or neck.

Spinal cord compression has various causes. The compression might arise abruptly in some instances or over time. The usual causes include the following:

  • Ruptured disc
  • Degenerative ailments such as arthritis
  • Damage to the spinal cord or area around the cord
  • Bone spurs that narrow the spinal canal
  • Bleeding conditions
  • Growth of non-cancerous and cancerous tumors in the space close to the spinal cord

Management of spinal cord compression

The treatment for spinal cord compression is based on the cause and seriousness of the damage. The doctor might suggest limiting physical activity or immobilization. Generally, the treatment might include the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain and swelling
  • Physical therapy that includes exercises to strengthen the leg and abdominal muscles
  • Epidural steroid shots into the spinal region
  • Home remedies such as application of ice packs and heating pads as well as over-the-counter pain medications
  • Alternative options might include acupressure or acupuncture
  • If a tumor is suspected to cause compression, radiation therapy or chemotherapy might be suggested.

Surgical intervention might be an option if conservative measures are not effective.


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