Cervical Myelopathy

Cervical Myelopathy 

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.

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Dr. Chris Yeung with Elderly Patient

What Is Cervical Myelopathy?

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.

Causes of Myelopathy

Knowing how this form of myelopathy originates can help you make proactive changes to help avoid this spine condition. Common causes include:

  • Normal age-related wear and tear on spinal discs
  • Degenerative diseases
  • Congenital diseases
  • Spinal trauma
  • Hardening of spinal ligaments
  • Spinal tumors

Risk Factors

Myelopathy caused by degeneration of the cervical spine may be facilitated by bone spurs, herniated discs, or spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal cord.

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:

  • Obesity
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • High-impact sports
  • Strenuous jobs that involve difficult manual labor
  • Improper form when lifting heavy objects

Symptoms of Cervical Myelopathy

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 – 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.
  • Weakness, Tingling, or Numbness – You may experience these sensations in your arms, hands, or legs.
  • Limb Pain – Some individuals may experience pain that radiates down the neck and into the spine, arms or hands.
  • Affected Coordination – Patients may struggle with balancing or have trouble holding objects.
Man in a park rubbing his neck due to an injury

Diagnosing Cervical Myelopathy

When diagnosing people who have cervical myelopathy, physicians may perform multiple mobility tests that evaluate a patient’s gait, grip strength, reflexes and other relevant indicators. At Desert Institute for Spine Care, we also diagnose patients by performing our technique of Personalized Pain Mapping (PPM), which consists of carefully listening to your concerns and doing a thorough examination to create a treatment plan.

Other methods like X-rays and MRIs will also help us get a clear perspective of your spinal issue. The test results will enable us to develop an appropriate treatment strategy for your case, using minimally invasive methods whenever possible.

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Treatment for Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy

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.

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Schedule an Appointment With a Cervical Myelopathy Doctor in Arizona

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.

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