You may not be the anxious type, but you’re a bundle of nerves anyway. We all are, at least in our spines.
The spinal cord is a bundle of nervous tissue carrying messages between your brain and your muscles, as well as other soft tissues, explains an article on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website. The cord is protected by vertebrae, a stack of backbones, that also serve to hold your body upright. Nerves run through the openings in the vertebrae.
Spinal Cord Compression
When any condition puts pressure on your spinal cord, you can experience numbness, pain or weakness. The symptoms may develop suddenly or gradually, and they may require anything from a minimum of supportive care to last-minute emergency surgery.
From your cervical spine at your neck to the lower back, spinal cord compression can give you difficulty with many of your everyday activities. It’s quite common for the condition to result from general wear and tear on the bones, also known as osteoarthritis, especially among the over-50 population, Johns Hopkins says.
Some of the causes of spinal cord compression include:
- An infection
- A spinal tumor
- Abnormal spine alignment
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Compression
When protection of that bundle of nerves is compromised, you’re bound to find out. Of course, in the case of injuries, the symptoms are often immediate. When spinal cord compression is the result of tumors, weeks or months may go by before you know. But the wearing down of vertebrae from age can take years to notice.
According to Johns Hopkins, symptoms of spinal cord compression include:
- Burning pain through the arms, buttocks and legs
- Numbness, cramping and weakness
- Difficulty with hand motion
- Numbness of the feet
- Pain and stiffness in the neck or back
- Loss of sexual ability
If compression occurs in your lumbar region, you may get symptoms of cauda equina syndrome (CES). If so, go immediately to a hospital. Those may include a loss of bowel or bladder control, numbness between the legs, inner thighs, and back of the legs, or severe pain and weakness in one or both legs.
Chiropractors and Cord Compression
A physical exam by your chiropractor may include looking for signs, such as loss of sensation, weakness or abnormal reflexes. Except in cases of emergency, such as cauda equina syndrome or a broken back, surgery is usually the last resort.
An adjustment to your spine by a chiropractor can contribute to restoring normal movement, says the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. They may employ traction, which is a pulling force increasing the space between the vertebrae and reducing pressure on the affected nerves.
It’s possible you’ll need braces to support your back, or a cervical collar may also be helpful. Other chiropractic procedures are often considered to relieve pressure on the spine or repair fractured vertebrae, and though many causes cannot be prevented, your medical professional can advise you how to contribute to the health of your back, Johns Hopkins says, through means such as:
- Exercising regularly
- Improving posture
- Sleeping on a firmer mattress
- Maintaining a healthy weight
The best way to manage spinal cord compression is to learn as much as you can about your condition, work closely with your health care providers and take an active role in your treatment. You’ll likely feel a lot less nervous that way.
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