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Original Contribution
May 1, 1967

Pain in the Back and Legs Caused by Cervical Spinal Cord Compression

Author Affiliations

From the Section of Neurosurgery (Dr. Langfitt) and the Department of Neurology (Dr. Elliott), Pennsylvania Hospital; and the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine, Philadelphia.

JAMA. 1967;200(5):382-385. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120180070010

Cervical spinal cord compression by tumor or degenerated disk material can cause low back and leg pains which simulate the lumbar disk syndrome. If the patient has roentgenographic evidence of both cervical and lumbar disk disease, the differential diagnosis can be difficult. The pain caused by cord compression tends to be diffuse, involves both legs, and is burning or aching in quality. Lumbosacral nerve root compression produces a sharp, radiating pain in the distribution of the involved root. The results of neurologic examination may be normal at a time when cord compression is sufficient to produce severe pain. The mechanical signs of lumbar disk herniation, limitation in back mobility, and a positive reaction to the straight leg raising test are absent with cord compression.