Cervical myelopathy can significantly affect your quality of life and make once-simple tasks difficult to complete. It is a leading cause of spinal cord injury and can facilitate chronic pain and disability later in life if left untreated. One study estimated that this condition has a prevalence of 1,120 per 1 million.
Fortunately, catching this issue early and taking action with a skilled specialist by your side can help you improve your quality of life and stop the condition from progressing. When you have dedicated medical care and a full understanding of cervical myelopathy, it can be easier to make the necessary changes to prevent or treat it. Learn more about this spinal condition below.
Myelopathy is compression that affects the spinal cord. Cervical myelopathy is a form of compression specifically involving the cervical spine, otherwise known as your neck.
You may also hear this condition referred to as cervical spondylotic myelopathy, with “spondylosis” meaning degeneration of the bones and cartilage within the neck. Since this form of the condition deals more with gradual wear and tear on the neck bones rather than acute injury or other causes, it’s often seen more in older adults.
Knowing how this form of myelopathy originates can help you make proactive changes to help avoid this spine condition. Common causes include:
When the spinal canal constricts, the patient may experience painful symptoms due to the pressure applied to surrounding nerves and the spinal cord. This issue can appear and progress with age or result from a congenital condition.
Some risk factors can make cervical myelopathy a greater possibility for certain individuals. Along with having the preexisting conditions above, a person may be at greater risk for developing this condition because of other circumstances, like:
Though cervical myelopathy occurs in the cervical spine, you could experience symptoms in only that area or throughout the rest of your body below the affected location. Some characteristics of this spinal condition include:
Neck pain is a common symptom, but it doesn’t always appear with this condition, which is why it’s best to contact your doctor if you suspect you may have cervical myelopathy to receive an accurate diagnosis and helpful treatment.
You may experience these sensations in your arms, hands, or legs.
Some individuals may experience pain that radiates down the neck and into the spine, arms or hands.
Patients may struggle with balancing or have trouble holding objects.
Whether surgical options are needed will depend on your particular case and its severity. In general, we opt for minimally invasive treatments to help preserve patients’ active lifestyles and support them with compassionate, individualized care. Nonsurgical treatments may involve solutions like corticosteroid injections, physical therapy or a cervical collar brace.
Some surgical options include posterior laminectomy and fusion, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, artificial disc replacement, and double-door laminoplasty. These surgeries are often performed on patients with severe symptoms, such as intense pain and progressive neurological changes like numbness and loss of fine motor skills.
If you need cervical spondylotic myelopathy treatment, contact our team at Desert Institute for Spine Care to start developing an effective treatment plan. With our aim to provide outstanding and compassionate care, we are with you every step of the way and will ensure you understand all your options.