Common Spinal Cord Compression Causes and Signs & Treatment

There are nerves present in the spinal cord that send messages or signals between your body and brain. Compression of spinal cord results due to pressure placed by a mass such as a bone fragment or a tumor on the spinal cord. Compression can occur at any place along the cord from neck to lower back. The compression may occur suddenly, resulting in symptoms within minutes to couple of hours or days, or it may occur gradually resulting in symptoms, which worsen over several weeks or even months.

Causes of Spinal Cord Compression

The compression of spinal cord may occur due to the following:

Sudden compression may occur due to

However, bones that are weakened gradually such as by osteoporosis or cancer may fracture suddenly and cause sudden compression.

Gradual compression may take days to years to develop. Causes vary and depend on the time it takes for the compression to occur.

Signs and Diagnosis of Spinal Cord Compression

After discussing causes of spinal cord compression, let’s discuss its symptoms and diagnosis.


Symptoms may develop slowly or quickly depending on what the cause is. Immediate symptoms may occur due to injury. Infections or tumors may result in symptoms that occur over days to weeks. Symptoms may develop over years due to degeneration of the spine.

Some common symptoms are:

Compression of nerves present in the lumbar area results in severe symptoms referred to as cauda equina syndrome.


Your physician will enquire about the symptoms of compression and perform a complete physical exam during which they will notice if there are any signs of compression of spinal cord such as weakness, abnormal reflexes and sensation loss. They may also perform the following tests to help with the diagnosis:

Treatment of Spinal Cord Compression

You already know causes of spinal cord compression, symptoms and diagnosis,  how about its treatment?

Different therapists who may treat compression of your spinal cord include bone surgeons, arthritis specialists, physical therapists and nerve specialists. Treatment may include medicine, injections, surgery and physical therapy. Except in emergencies such as a fractured vertebra or cauda equina syndrome, surgery is generally considered as a last resort.

How to Manage Compression of Spinal Cord

You should gain maximum knowledge about your problem, work very closely with the physicians treating you and become an active part of your treatment. Maintain the health of your back by keeping your weight healthy, practicing body mechanics that are good and exercising regularly.

Home Remedies

You can get help by using home remedies such as a heating pad, ice bag, hot shower or a massage.

Ask your physician if they recommend any nutritional supplements and also discuss any alternative medicines or treatments that you may want to try.

When Should You Call Your Physician?

Cauda equina syndrome may occur due to compression of spinal cord and it requires immediate medical attention. Call your physician or visit emergency room in case you have the following:

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