Spinal cord compression is a physical condition that involves part of the spinal cord becoming compressed by such physical abnormalities as bone fragments, tumors, ruptured discs, and the like. Spinal cord compression is usually considered to be a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical care.
This is because it can, in some cases, cause permanent damage to the spine or nerves of the spinal cord. Depending on the cause of the compression and how serious it is, it can sometimes involve a great degree of pain and suffering. However, the severity of spinal cord compression can range from slight to substantial
Spinal cord compression is caused by conditions that place pressure on a person’s spinal cord. The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that carries messages to and from the brain and the body’s muscles. Our spinal cords are protected by the bones of the spine, which are called “vertebrae”. The spinal vertebrae also help hold our bodies upright.
The nerves of the spinal cord run through the openings in the vertebrae and the tissue between the vertebrae, known as “discs”. The nerves then run out of the spine to a person’s muscles.
Spinal cord compression can occur anywhere between the neck, called the “cervical spine”, and down to a person’s lower back, called the “lumbar spine.” Some symptoms of spinal cord compression include numbness, pain, and weakness.
Some symptoms may develop suddenly, while others may develop gradually. It depends on the cause of the compression. The type of care required may range from long-term supportive care to emergency surgery, again, depending on the cause and how bad the symptoms are.
What Are Some Symptoms of Spinal Cord Compression?
The symptoms of spinal cord compression may be only slight when only a few of the nerve impulses are disrupted due to the compression. This less serious situation is characterized by symptoms such as:
- Muscle weakness;
- “Tingling” sensations in the extremities, e.g. the legs and feet or arms and hands;
- For men, loss of sexual ability and other symptoms of a similar nature;
- Pain and stiffness in the neck, back, or lower back;
- Burning pain that spreads to the arms, buttocks, or down into the legs, known medically as “sciatica”;
- Numbness, cramping, or weakness in the arms, hands, or legs;
- Loss of sensation in the feet;
- Trouble with hand coordination;
- “Foot drop,” which is weakness and loss of motor control of a foot that can cause a person to limp;
Severe spinal cord compression is a major blockage of nerve impulses. Symptoms may include:
- Slight or complete paralysis, i.e. a complete inability to move;
- Loss of all sensation below the point in the spine where the compression occurs,
- Loss of control of various bodily functions; and other serious symptoms.
Pressure on nerves in the lower back can also cause a more serious condition known as “cauda equina syndrome.” If a person has any of the following symptoms, they need to get emergency medical attention right away:
- Loss of bowel or bladder control;
- Severe or increasing numbness between the legs, inner thighs, and back of the legs;
- Severe pain and weakness that spreads into a person’s legs, making it difficult to walk or stand up from a chair.
Again, if a person were to experience symptoms such as these, they should go to the nearest emergency room and seek help.
What Are Some Common Causes of Spinal Cord Compression?
Spinal cord compression can occur due to fractures of the vertebrae, abscesses, tumors of the spine, rupture or herniation of the discs between the vertebrae, hematoma, which is bruising, or connective tissue disorders.
These conditions may arise from physical trauma, such as those resulting from a car accident, sports injury, or an intentional injury caused by battery. These may also arise as a result of a shooting or a fall. Compression may also develop gradually over time due to aging or overexertion.
One of the most common causes of spinal cord compression is the gradual wearing of the bones of the spine, known as osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis develops when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. People who develop spinal cord compression from osteoarthritis are usually older than 50, but not always.
Other conditions that may cause spinal cord compression can develop quickly, even suddenly, and they can occur at any age:
Among other conditions that can cause spinal compression are as follows:
- Abnormal spine alignment (scoliosis);
- Injury to the spine such as a person may suffer in a car accident or accident of another type;
- Spinal tumor;
- Certain diseases of the bones;
- Rheumatoid arthritis;
Who Can Be Held Liable for Spinal Cord Compression Injuries?
Various parties can sometimes be held liable for a spinal cord compression injury, but only if their intentional or negligent actions caused the injury.
People who may be liable for their intentional or negligent actions may include:
- Employers for injuries that a worker suffers on their job;
- Individuals such as a person who assaults another person or a person who shoots another person;
- A driver whose negligence causes an automobile accident in which a person suffers an injury that leads to spinal compression;
- Owners of premises where a person may have slipped and fallen;
- Hospitals and health care providers might be liable for medical malpractice, e.g. for substandard surgery on the spine.
Lawsuits can sometimes be necessary in order for the injured party to recover compensation for their economic losses. These are usually compensated through an award of money damages in a personal injury lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim.
If a person was injured at work in the course and scope of their employment, they may turn to their state’s workers’ compensation system for an award of money damages to compensate them for the cost of their medical care and lost wages.
If a person was a victim of medical malpractice, they would file a lawsuit against the health care providers whose negligence caused their spinal compression. If they suffered their injury while being treated in a hospital, they would include the hospital as a defendant in their lawsuit.
If a person suffered spinal compression because of an auto accident caused by the negligence of another driver, then they would file a lawsuit against the other driver. Of course, if they live in a no-fault insurance state, they would turn to their own auto insurance company for compensation.
If a person suffers spinal compression because of the intentional actions of another person, such as a person who battered them or shot them, they might sue that person in a civil court for damages. They would claim an intentional wrong, such as civil battery, rather than negligence.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Spinal Cord Compression Claim?
Spinal cord compression is a serious medical condition that can lead to permanent bodily injury. Various parties may be held liable for a spinal compression injury, depending on the circumstances.
You need to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area if you need assistance with a claim for a spinal compression injury. Your attorney can analyze the facts of your case and determine if another person or entity may be liable for your injury.
If the facts suggest that you have a claim for medical malpractice or some other type of negligence or intentional wrong, your lawyer can guide you through the process for getting compensation for your losses.