What Is a Spinal Infection: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments


Are you experiencing back pain? More specifically, do you feel chronic pain in your spinal area? This is not the kind of pain you want to ignore. 

There are a variety of spinal conditions that can cause problems in the spring. If you have a spinal infection, it can be quite serious and shouldn’t be ignored. 

If you’re a person who’s experiencing spinal pain, you might want more information about spinal infections. Read on to learn more. 

What Is A Spinal Infection?

A spinal infection that develops in the back or spinal column region. The infection can form in the:

  • Vertebral column
  • The intervertebral disc space
  • The spinal canal
  • Adjacent soft tissues

Spinal infections can be caused by a bacterial infection or a fungal infection. There are a variety of causes for a spinal infection. One More on that later. Many patients suffering from a spinal infection notice it post-surgery. 

Types Of Spinal Infections

 There are several different types of spinal infections to be aware of. The types will vary depending on the location of the infection and what’s triggering the infection. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most commonly known types of spinal infections. 

Vertebral Osteomyelitis

Vertebral osteomyelitis, also called spondylodiscitis, is the most common type of spinal infection. This type of spinal infection most commonly impacts your vertebrae. 

It can also impact the intervertebral discs. Often this type of infection is the result of direct open spinal trauma. Most commonly the infection is the result of a bacterial infection that travels through the blood. 


Discitis is a spinal disc infection that many believe is another form of osteomyelitis. The infection forms in the intervertebral disc are often between the discs in the vertebrae. 

Discitis is another infection that can form following back or spinal surgery. It can also develop when a person has a urinary tract infection or pneumonia that spreads through the body. 

If you develop this infection, which is more uncommon than osteomyelitis, you might get fever and chills. You might also have significant pain with spine movement and radiating pain in various body regions.

Spinal Epidural Abscess

The spinal epidural abscess is another type of infection found in the lower lumbar region of the back. This infection can also develop following surgery or treatment from an injury. 

If you have a spinal epidural abscess you’re likely to feel:

  • Skin boils, back
  • Arm or leg pain
  • Spine tenderness
  • Back weakness or pain
  • Bowel, bladder, or abdominal issues

This is a type of infection where you’re likely to feel localized pain to the location of the infection.

Spinal Subdural Empyema

A spinal subdural empyema is a less common type of spinal infection. Often a person develops this type of infection as a result of another infection in the body. 

Like other infections, the fever would be a warning sign. You might also develop arm pain or leg pain which can make this a more challenging type of infection to pinpoint. 

The infection develops between the space between the dura and arachnoid. This can occur in both the brain and spinal column and cause a compression of the region that can create a significant medical emergency.


Meningitis is another infection that can develop in the brain and in the spinal column. What actually happens is the protective membranes around the brain and spinal column swell. These delicate membranes are called meninges.

Meningitis can result from an infection in the body that spreads to those membranes. It can also happen from cancer, certain drugs, and other injuries. 

Meningitis in both adults and children can be very dangerous and needs to be treated swiftly by medical professionals.

Spinal Cord Abscess

A spinal cord abscess is quite rare. It develops internally in the spinal cord. Usually, this type of infection develops as a result of an epidural abscess. 

Inside the spine, pus will develop. The pus forms a collection of:

  • White blood cells
  • Fluid
  • Live and dead bacteria or other microorganisms
  • Destroyed tissue cells

The development of the infected pus will put pressure on the spinal column causing the infected person pain. It’s how you know there’s an infection that’s developed. 

Must Read How Much Excessive Sugar Affects Your Body?

Spinal Infections Symptoms

The symptoms related to your spinal infection will vary depending on the type of infection you’re experiencing. Like many infections, one of the first things your body will do as it tries to fight the infection is to develop a fever. 

Often the pain is associated with a spinal infection too. It can be chronic nagging and localized pain, to stabbing sharp pain and more severe pain, depending again on the type of infection. 

If your infection develops following surgery, you’ll often see signs around an incision. There might be wound drainage, swelling, or redness in the area.  

Treat Spinal Infections

It’s critical to pay attention to these signs from your body. Many spine infections can be very dangerous and serious. Sometimes you need a strong dose of antibiotics. Some infections even require more long-term antibiotics to shake the infection. 

If you have had a back injury or surgery and you develop symptoms, you should contact your back specialist right away. If your symptoms come on quickly and you feel more severe pain, it’s also a sign to get checked by a doctor right away. 

The spinal column is connected to your brain and can put you in real danger if an infection worsens or travels.

Learn about back specialists and how they would approach a spinal infection here.

Get The Help You Need For Your Spinal Infection

 Spinal infection is a dangerous type of infection and one where you shouldn’t take the tough it out approach. You want to get an appointment with a back specialist as quickly as possible. If your pain is severe, you probably should go to your nearest emergency room if there’s a delay to see the doctor. 

For more health-related articles like this one, be sure to visit our page often.