Practice Blog

These Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Infection

March 29, 2021

Are you experiencing severe back pain? You feel weak and stiff, but no matter how much you rest, it’s just not going away.

You may have a spinal infection, and it’s time to see a spinal specialist.

Read on to learn about the symptoms of a spinal infection, common causes, and treatments.


What Is a Spinal Infection?

Spinal infection is a disease where bacteria, fungi, or a virus attack the spinal tissue. The bacteria can attack different parts of the spine, including the vertebrae, spinal discs, meninges, spinal canal, and the spinal cord. The spine then becomes inflamed.

The bacteria spreads to the spine through the bloodstream. It is common for bacteria like Staph or E. Coli to enter the bloodstream following invasive surgery or drug abuse. As a result, the spine becomes inflamed.

The Dangers and Causes of Spinal Infections

Spinal infections can cause serious damage to your spine. When the spinal discs are inflamed from the infection, they can break down or even worse, decay. The infection of intervertebral discs that cause this inflammation is known as Discitis. If the bacteria attack the bones of the spine, this is known as Osteomyelitis.

If the vertebrae are infected, the bones that make up the spinal column can fracture, which makes the spine unstable.

The people who are most at risk for spinal infections include drug abusers, elderly patients, and people with weak immune systems.

Here is a list of common causes and risk factors:

  • Older age
  • Drug abuse
  • Poor nutrition
  • Post-surgical infections
  • HIV
  • Cancer
  • Obesity
  • Organ transplantation

Spinal Infection Symptoms

The tricky side of spinal infections is that they develop over time. This means you may not know you’re dealing with it until weeks or a few months later. Here are common symptoms to look for:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Pain that doesn’t go away
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in the legs and arms
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weight loss
  • Issues managing bowels and bladder
  • Limited mobility
  • Swelling or redness at the site of infection


If you’re worried that you have a spinal infection, there are various ways that doctors will test this based on what stage of the infection is present in the spine. If the infection is in the early stage, your doctor may take an x-ray to search for bone deterioration and/or loss of length in the spinal discs. For a closer look at both bone health and soft tissues of your spine, your doctor might order an MRI.

Oftentimes, lab work is necessary. Nonetheless, your doctor may examine your white cell count or markers for inflammation. In most cases of a spinal infection, these markers are overwhelmingly high.

After wrapping up lab work, your doctor will prescribe the necessary treatment to bring your spine back to good health.

Get Diagnosed and Treated Today

Above all, if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of a spinal infection, contact a doctor immediately. While this kind of disease is rare, it is serious and requires immediate medical attention.

Lastly, if you’re looking for spinal specialists in the Tampa Bay area, contact us today for a consultation and treatment.

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