The spinal cord runs from the base of your skull to the low spine (right above you buttocks). A compression can occur due to a degenerative disease (arthritis), cancerous and non-cancerous tumors, ruptured (herniated) disc, bleeding (hematoma), pus (abscess), or traumatic injury. This compression can be sudden or can occur gradually depending on the cause.
Risk Factors for Spinal Cord Compression:
- excess weight: causing more stress of joints that are weight-bearing
- trauma – sports related, motor vehicle accidents
- use of poor lifting techniques
- medical conditions: osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, tumors, infection
How is Spinal Cord Compression Diagnosed?
After an examination and a review of your past medical history your spine surgeon or his physician assistant will order x-rays and an MRI to determine exactly which level of your spine in affected. After diagnostic testing is completed your physician will determine your treatment plan.
- back or neck pain
- numbness, tingling or weakness in the arms or legs
- sexual dysfunction
- loss of bowel or bladder control (seek immediate medical attention)
Treatment Options for Spinal Cord Compression
Non-surgical treatment options for bulging disc include physical therapy, exercise, medication, massage therapy, acupuncture, and/or application of heat or cold compresses. If the compression is due to a tumor radiation or chemotherapy may be indicated. Steroid injections may help reduce inflammation relieving some of the compression. Occasionally steroids are injected around the nerves in the spinal column (epidural steroid injections – ESI) easing the pain and reducing the inflammation.
The steroid injections are done by Orlando Orthopaedic Center’s Pain Management Physicians. This is done in an outpatient surgical suite under fluoroscopy (specialized x-ray machine), which allows the steroid medication to be injected around the spinal nerves that are being affected. This may relieve the pain completely. If the pain is not relieved surgery may be indicated.
When non-surgical treatment fails patients might be a candidate for surgery. When compression is due to a hematoma or an abscess it will need to be surgically drained. Surgical procedures to relieve the compression may include laminotomy/foraminotomy, laminectomy or discectomy. The spine surgeon will make the decision on which type of surgery will benefit the patient most.
Who Should Consider Surgery?
Surgery should be considered for individuals who have failed conservative treatment with medications and injections, or those with symptoms that are so severe that they are starting to lose significant function and are at risk for permanent nerve damage.
All risks and benefits of spine surgery should be considered before making a decision. The spine surgeon will discuss all available options and treatments.