Myelopathy is a condition caused by abnormal pressure on the spinal cord. The spinal cord is the main nerve pathway between your brain and your body, and the damage caused by this pressure can result in loss of nerve function anywhere along the spinal cord below the affected area. The effects of myelopathy can range from mild to severe and can worsen over time.

What You Need To Know About Myelopathy

What Is Myelopathy?

Myelopathy is an injury to the spinal cord due to severe compression that may result from congenital stenosis, degenerative disease, disc herniation, autoimmune disorders, or other trauma. The spinal cord is a group of nerves housed inside the spine. When any portion of the spinal cord becomes compressed or constricted, the resulting symptoms are known collectively as myelopathy.

When any part of the spinal cord is compressed, it causes nerve dysfunction along the spinal cord resulting in pain, loss of balance and coordination, and numbness in the area around the compression point. Myelopathy can occur in any area along the spinal cord. Types of myelopathy include:

  • Cervical myelopathy, which occurs in the neck and is the most common form of myelopathy

  • Thoracic myelopathy, which occurs in the middle region of the spine

  • Lumbar myelopathy, which occurs in the lowest region of the spine and is the rarest form of myelopathy

Finding the best relief for myelopathy treatment starts with a visit to Resurgens Spine Center. Schedule an appointment now at a Spine Center location near you!

What Causes Myelopathy?

Myelopathy is caused by a reduction in space around the spinal cord. This can be caused by an injury to your neck or your back, degenerative diseases such as arthritis, or the normal wear and tear of aging and everyday life. Myelopathy typically develops slowly as a result of the gradual degeneration of the spine (spondylosis), but it can also take an acute form or result from a spine deformity present at birth.

Myelopathy Symptoms

Myelopathy has a wide range of symptoms that can differ depending on where the compression happens along your spinal cord. If it's in your cervical spine, you may have problems such as pain, numbness, weakness or tingling.

You may feel symptoms in your neck, shoulders, arms or hands. You may feel them in your legs or feet. Compression in your lower back can cause pain and cramping in your legs. Myelopathy can cause problems with walking and with balance. It can also cause problems with your bladder and bowels. If you develop any of the symptoms below, it may be time to consult a physician.

  • Neck, arm, leg or lower back pain.

  • Tingling, numbness or weakness.

  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as writing or buttoning a shirt.

  • Increased reflexes in extremities or the development of abnormal reflexes.

  • Difficulty walking.

  • Loss of urinary or bowel control.

  • Issues with balance and coordination.

How is Myelopathy Diagnosed?

The first step in diagnosing myelopathy is a careful physical exam and a review of your medical history. Myelopathy symptoms are not unique to this condition. Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following diagnostic procedures in order to make a diagnosis:

  • A spinal x-ray to rule out other causes of back or neck pain.

  • A spine MRI or CT to show areas of pressure on the spinal cord.

  • Myelography, a radiological test to determine the location and presence of abnormalities of the spinal cord.

  • Somatosensory Evoked Potential (SEP) or Electromyography (EMG), to test nerve relay along the spinal cord and isolate the exact nerve root that is involved.

In many cases, a myelopathy diagnosis may be an indicator of another underlying condition related to the spinal cord.

Myelopathy Treatment

Myelopathy treatment depends on your symptoms and their underlying causes, and your doctor will create a treatment plan that is right for you.

In some cases, non-surgical options may effectively treat mild cases and allow a return to everyday activities. Non-surgical treatment options include physical therapy and exercise, bracing, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), interventional techniques such as nerve blocks (spinal injections), epidural injections in the lumbar and cervical spine, and activity modification.

In more serious cases, surgery may be necessary. The goal of any surgical intervention is the reduction of pressure on the spine, and possible treatments include:

Your Resurgens Orthopaedics physician will choose the myelopathy treatment plan best suited to your unique spinal needs.

Getting relief for your myelopathy symptoms starts with a visit to Resurgens Spine Center. Schedule an appointment now to learn more!

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