Spinal Cord Infarction

African American woman doctor looking at xraySpinal cord infarction is a stroke either within the spinal cord or the
arteries that supply it. It is caused by arteriosclerosis or a thickening or
closing of the major arteries to the spinal cord. Frequently spinal cord
infarction is caused by a specific form of arteriosclerosis called
atheromatosis, in which a deposit or accumulation of lipid-containing matter
forms within the arteries. Symptoms, which generally appear within minutes or a
few hours of the infarction, may include intermittent sharp or burning back
pain, aching pain down through the legs, weakness in the legs, paralysis, loss
of deep tendon reflexes, loss of pain and temperature sensation, and

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is symptomatic. Physical and occupational therapy may help
individuals recover from weakness or paralysis. A catheter may be necessary for
patients with urinary incontinence.

What is the prognosis?

Recovery depends upon how quickly treatment is received and how severely
the body is compromised. Paralysis may persist for many weeks or be permanent.
Most individuals have a good chance of recovery.

What research is being done?

NINDS conducts and supports research on disorders of the spinal cord such
as spinal cord infarction, aimed at learning more about these disorders and
finding ways to prevent and treat them.

Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.


Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
636 Morris Turnpike
Short Hills, NJ   07078
[email protected]
973-379-2690 800-225-0292
Fax: 973-912-9433

National Spinal Cord Injury Association
1 Church
Rockville, MD   20850
[email protected]
Fax: 301-963-1265
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
801 18th Street,
Washington, DC   20006-3517
[email protected]
Tel: 202-USA-1300 (872-1300)
Fax: 202-785-4452


Related NINDS Publications and Information

– NINDS Spinal Cord Injury Information Page
– Spinal cord injury
information sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke (NINDS).
– Spinal Cord Injury: Emerging Concepts
– Report of a
1996 workshop on spinal cord injury research and treatments
– Functional and
Dysfunctional Spinal Circuitry: Role for Rehabilitation and Neural
– Summary of NINDS New Strategies in Spinal Cord Injury workshop
held June, 2000.
– NINDS Workshop on Re-establishing Connectivity in the
Damaged Spinal Cord
– Summary of NINDS Workshop on Re-establishing
Connectivity in the Damaged Spinal Cord held January 18-19, 2001


Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of
Bethesda, MD 20892


NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only
and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal
agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be
obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or
is familiar with that patient’s medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely
copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

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Last updated May 07, 2008

The Truth Behind Back Pain

man holding lower back appearing to be in pain, backache(BlackDoctor.org) — Every single day, almost all of us put strain on our backs performing routine behaviors and motions. Over time, picking up your shoes the floor or throwing a bag over your shoulder won’t be so easy, and may be accompanied by some serious back pain.

But with some awareness of how your daily tasks can affect your back, and a few simple changes, you can prevent yourself from suffering through one of the most common chronic pains.

A firm mattress is best for your back…

Myth. A superfirm mattress might actually be the source of your back problems.  A too-soft mattress won’t offer enough support for your back.  On the other hand, a rock-hard one can increase pressure on the spine. Trying to find a mattress to accommodate your back problem can seem like looking for a needle in the haystack.  If an expensive adjustable mattress isn’t an option, look into modifying your current mattress.  Consider buying a mattress pad to soften a too-firm mattress or a bed board to add some rigidity to one that’s too soft.

Lifting heavy objects will strain your back…

Myth. It’s not necessarily how much you lift, but how you lift that makes the difference. The proper form to avoid injury is to: keep your back straight, grab the object, bring it close to your body, and then stand. You should be lifting with your lower body muscles (thigh and butt).

Back pain isn’t always caused by an injury…

Fact. According to a study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, women who feel overwhelmed at home or work are more two times more likely to have lower-back pain. Mental stress causes muscle fibers to tighten and over time it wears those fibers down and leaves you at greater risk for injury. What’s more is that your body’s natural response to stress is to increase muscle tension which makes existing back problems even worse. When you feel stress coming on, take some time out to relax. A hot bath or shower can relax your back muscle fibers. To boost the stress-relief benefits even more, use lavender-scented bath beads or soap.  The calming scent lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Sitting up straight keeps your spine in line…

Myth. Your mom was right about sitting up straight.  It’s good for your back; but sitting up too straight puts a lot of stress on the disks in your back, especially when you sit for a long time. Adjust your posture a few times daily.  Lean back in your chair with your with your feet on the ground and make sure there’s a slight curve in your lower back.  Sitting this way distributes your body weight more evenly and takes some of the pressure off your spine. If you often end up slouching at your desk by the end of the day, consider using a cushion to support your lower back.  Also make sure to take a break from sitting every half hour, even if it’s just standing during a phone call to get some circulation going.

Exercise is actually good for your back…

Fact. Exercise strengthens your back muscles and increases blood flow to the disks, helping them withstand daily strain. Regular exercise helps prevent obesity which is a major contributor to back pain. A study in the journal Spine revealed that overweight people were nearly three times more likely to go to the hospital with a back injury than those at a healthy weight. Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or using the elliptical machine will help strengthen your back without putting excess pressure on your disks or joints.

Make sure to warm up with at least 15 minutes of light cardio to increase blood flow to back muscles, and no matter what muscle groups you are working on keep your back straight.