Spinal cord compression happens when too much pressure is put on the spinal cord – the column of nerve tissue that runs down the middle of your spine. This pressure may be caused by certain injuries or conditions that cause bone, a tumour, a ruptured vertebral disc, or a collection of pus (abscess) or blood (haematoma) to press on the cord.
What are the symptoms of spinal cord compression?
Spinal cord compression can happen suddenly or gradually. When it happens suddenly, it can cause symptoms that appear within minutes, hours, days or weeks. When it happens gradually, its symptoms may get worse over months or years.
The symptoms of spinal cord compression can vary depending on how much of the cord is affected. They include:
- back or neck pain
- muscle weakness
- tingling, numbness and other changes in sensation in parts of your body
- difficulty controlling when you pee or poo
- not being able to pee at all or empty your bladder fully when you pee
- difficulty having or keeping an erection
Spinal cord compression is an emergency condition that needs immediate medical attention. Go to the emergency department or call an ambulance if you think you have it.
How is spinal cord compression treated?
The treatment you’ll need will typically depend on the cause of the compression and may include:
- steroids given through a vein
- a procedure to drain abscesses or collections of blood (haematoma)
- radiotherapy - for tumours