Syrinx Scare

What exactly is this secondary condition, and how do treat it?

Getting a syrinx after spinal-cord injury (SCI) could require surgery and put you out for a while. Find out what exactly this secondary condition is and how to treat it.

What it is: A syrinx, or syringomyelia, is a cyst that develops on the spinal cord that can cause pain, stiffness and weakness as well as lead to scoliosis and spinal cord damage.

Cause: A syrinx usually forms following spinal cord tumors, spinal cord injuries and damage from inflammation around the spinal cord.

If syringomyelia isn't causing any problems, monitoring the condition may be all that's necessary. But if you're bothered by symptoms, you may need surgery.


  • Muscle weakness and atrophy
  • Loss of reflexes
  • Loss of sensitivity to pain and temperature
  • Back, shoulder, arm and leg stiffness
  • Neck, arm and back pain
  • Problems with bowel and bladder function
  • Muscle weakness and leg spasms
  • Facial pain or numbness
  • Spinal curvature (scoliosis)

Diagnosis: Syringomyelia can develop months and even years after SCI, so watch carefully for symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms, see your doctor for an MRI or CT scan.

Treat: In many cases, a syrinx won’t cause any additional issues and just needs to be monitored. If you have a syrinx, avoid anything that will strain your spine, especially heavy lifting. However, if the symptoms are severe, physical therapy or surgery may be necessary.

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