Myelopathy is not a single condition, but may refer to one of many different problems that injure the spinal cord. Myelopathy may be caused by trauma, inflammation or infection, or something can be pressing on the spinal cord such as a vertebral disc, vertebral bone, a blood vessel, or some type of growth. Myelopathy is often categorized by its location along the spine and usually affects the neck (Cervical Myelopathy). It is a serious condition that demands prompt, expert care.
The most common cause of myelopathy, and is especially common among adults over the age of 55, is cervical spondylitic myelopathy. In cervical spondylitic myelopathy vertebral bones, vertebral discs, and ligaments degenerate and impinge on the spinal cord in the neck. People with this condition may experience muscle weakness, loss of coordination in the hands, loss of balance, wide-based gait, abnormal or absent sensations, or muscle atrophy if the condition goes untreated. Other symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, cramping in the hands (especially at night), and handwriting changes.
Symptoms of myelopathy are often mistaken as being natural aspects of the aging process. Although certain discomfort and weakness is normal, Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics stresses that patients consult their spine professional if they are no longer able to maintain balance or coordination.
While cervical spondylitic myelopathy is the most common cause of myelopathy (as many as one in 4 people with myelopathy have cervical spondylitic myelopathy), it is far from the only cause. Other common causes of myelopathy include neoplasm, multiple sclerosis, and motor neuron disease. Myelopathy can also be caused by spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal narrows and damages the spinal cord, and even osteoporosis.
Proper diagnosis and treatment planning requires the services of a spine specialist. Dr. Rovner and Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics are well versed in the causes of myelopathy, its diagnosis, and treatments.
To properly diagnose myelopathy, your care professional at Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics will a comprehensive medical history and physical examination. Certain studies, such as an MRI scan may be needed to determine the full extent of the damages.
Treatment for myelopathy differs depending on the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Depending on the extent of nerve damage, Dr. Rovner may suggest surgery, which is often the most effective way to remove pressure from the spinal cord and prevent progression of the disease.