Compression of the Spine: Do You Have It?
Your spinal cord sends signals between your brain and your body. When a spinal cord compression happens, a mass presses down on the cord. What your Miami spine doctor will call a mass can be anything from a tumor to a bone fragment. Compressions can occur anywhere on your spine. The symptoms of this condition can vary widely. The symptoms you experience can vary depending on the severity of the compressions, as well as its location on your spine. Many people with a spinal cord compression experience pain or stiffness in their neck or back. They can also develop numbness in the arms, legs, and hands. If the compression takes place in the lumbar area, this condition gets called cauda equina. The symptoms of cauda equina include weakness in your legs, a loss of bladder control, and numbness in your inner thighs or in the back of your legs. There are many causes of spinal cord compression. In some cases, the condition can come on suddenly. In other circumstances, the condition can come on slowly over time. For example, arthritis can lead to spinal cord compression. Ruptured disks, a pre-existing spinal injury, bone spurs, and tumors can also cause the condition. Any person can develop spinal cord compression. Using improper lifting technique when picking up heavy objects can cause spinal injuries. Those patients who have osteoarthritis can also find themselves at a higher risk for developing compression on the spine.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Spinal Cord Compression?
Your doctor will perform a medical history and an exam, as well as a spinal x-ray and either a CT scan or an MRI test. The MRI test and the CT scan can give the doctor an image of your spine and can give them an idea of what is causing your back pain. Your doctor might request a test called a myelogram. In a myelogram, dye gets injected into the area of your spine, after which a CT scan will get taken of that space. The treatment you will get for a spinal cord compression will largely depend on the severity and cause of the compression. Your doctor might assign you to bed rest or to take time off of work to treat the condition. Some other treatment plans can include medications, steroid injections, and physical therapy. Some people choose to treat their compression with home health treatments such as over-the-counter medications, ice packs, and heating pads. Others choose to seek treatment with alternative medicine practitioners to get acupuncture services. Other treatment options include radiation or chemotherapy. These options may get put on the table in order to shrink a tumor or mass on your spine. When your compression gets treated as soon as possible, before your nerves get destroyed, treatment can keep your spinal cord from getting damaged. After treatment, you usually recover most, if not all, of your former function. Much of the time, you will need surgery to properly treat the compression on your spine. Your doctor might also need to perform surgery to insert steel rods, screws, or pins to keep your spine straight. If you have a tumor or other type of blunt injury, your doctor might give you corticosteroids intravenously. Corticosteroids keep down the swelling in the spinal cord area. This treatment is important as the swelling could contribute to your spinal compression. Once your doctor gives you corticosteroids intravenously, your surgeon will either remove the tumor or treat the mass with radiation therapy.
If you have an abscess that causes spinal dysfunction such as loss of bladder control or paralysis, a surgeon will remove the abscess quickly. You will also get antibiotics. For those patients who have not developed any symptoms of spinal dysfunction, the only thing that your doctor may have to do is give you antibiotics, draw out the pus of the abscess with a needle, or provide both treatments to treat the abscess. If a hematoma acts as the cause of your compression, the blood that accumulates will get drawn out immediately. If you have a bleeding disorder or are taking an anticoagulant, your doctor will give your injections of plasma and vitamin K to reduce any bleeding that may occur.
Can You Prevent Spinal Cord Compression?
The cause and severity of your compression will largely determine your outlook. However, we find that many of our patients respond well to treatment. Because of this condition’s many causes, it is probably not possible to prevent every single case of spinal cord compression. However, there are some things that you can do to make getting a compression on your spineless likely. By exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight and BMI can reduce the pressure on your back. You can also decrease your chances of getting this painful issue by learning how to lift heavy objects properly.