What is Spinal Cord Compression

Spinal cord compression is caused by any condition that puts pressure on your spinal cord. Your spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that carries messages back and forth from your brain to your muscles and other soft tissues. As your spinal cord travels down your back, it is protected by a stack of backbones called vertebrae.

Where Does Spinal Cord Compression Occur?

Spinal cord compression can occur anywhere from your neck (cervical spine) down to your lower back (lumbar spine). Symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck, back, or lower back
  • Burning pain that spreads to the arms or down into the legs (sciatica)
  • Loss of sensation in the feet
  • Trouble with hand coordination
  • "Foot drop," weakness in a foot that causes a limp

Causes Spinal Cord Compression?

One of the most common causes of spinal cord compression is the gradual wear and tear on the bones of the spine, known as osteoarthritis. Other conditions that may cause spinal cord compression can develop more quickly, even very suddenly, and can occur at any age:

  • Abnormal spine alignment (scoliosis)
  • Injury to the spine
  • Spinal tumor
  • Certain bone diseases
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infection

Treatment of Spinal Cord Compression

Medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Physical therapy may include exercises to strengthen your back, abdominal, and leg muscles.

Surgical treatments include removing bone spurs and widening the space between vertebrae. Other procedures may be done to relieve pressure on the spine or repair fractured vertebrae.

Alternative treatments include acupuncture and chiropractic care.

Tips to Help Prevent Spinal Cord Compression

  • Get regular exercise. Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your back and helps keep your spine flexible
  • Maintain good posture
  • Safely lift heavy objects
  • Maintain a healthy weight