Spinal Cord Compression

Spinal cord compression usually refers to incapacitating pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord from a tumor. The tumor may be growing in the nerves themselves, in the surrounding connective tissue or in the vertebra. The majority of spinal cord compression cases involve a metastasizing tumor in a thoracic vertebra.

Symptoms of Spinal Cord Compression

Spinal cord compression is a very serious condition. The spinal cord runs from the base of the brain in the upper neck (cervical spine) to about the first or second lumbar vertebrae (lumbar spine). The spinal cord can be compressed by a herniated disc in the neck, mid back or upper part of the low back, by an arthritic bone spur, by narrowing of the spinal canal due to arthritis, or by a tumor or infection. Other conditions such as multiple sclerosis can affect the spinal cord directly and can cause symptoms.

Symptoms may be subtle or severe. The spinal cord itself does not hurt. Therefore one symptom is painless weakness of the lower extremities. A clumsy or wide-based gait may be the initial symptom. Loss of or change in bowel or bladder control or numbness in the perineal area (saddle anesthesia) may also be symptoms.

Spinal cord compression can lead to paralysis, so it is imperative that evaluation and treatment get started as soon as possible.

Treatment is dependent upon the cause of the compression. It may include steroids or surgical decompression.

You can manage Spinal Cord Compression

Pain control includes high-dose corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and pressure from the tumor compressing the spinal cord. In addition,

  • Focus on weight-bearing activities such as walking and lifting light weights to help keep bones strong.
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Stop smoking.

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