Information about Myelopathy

Myelopathy | DFW Center for Spinal DisordersMyelopathy is the clinical term for spinal cord compression. It is one of the most common causes of cervical or neck pain in people over age 55 in the U.S. The pain associated with myelopathy can lead from problems with the vertebrae and facet joints of your spine, as well as the muscles, ligaments, and nerves of the spine.

At the DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, we are experts at diagnosing and treating myelopathy.

What causes myelopathy?

Most myelopathy is simply a result of the normal wear and tear of aging. Everyday stresses on our spine cause degenerative changes that affect the facet joints, the discs, and the ligaments.

As we age, our spinal discs become less fluid, drying out and calcifying. This causes them to compress, which closes up the space between facet joints. This puts added stress on the cartilage that keeps the joints working properly in your spine. Disc degeneration can lead to a herniated disc, where the disc pushes outward and puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Degeneration also can cause bone spurs to form, causing your spinal canal to narrow and leading to compression.

Myelopathy can also be a result of injuries, such as a car accident, sports injury, or a fall. The muscles and ligaments that support the spine can be affected. Or bone fractures and joint dislocations can occur.

What are the symptoms of myelopathy?

When due to simply aging, myelopathy doesn’t always show symptoms. In these cases, it may not become evident until the spinal cord has been compressed by at these 30 percent. The most common symptoms of myelopathy include neck stiffness, deep aching pain in one or both sides of the neck and possibly your shoulders, stiffness, and weakness in your legs, and difficulty walking. There may be a grating sensation when moving your neck. Myelopathy can also lead to stabbing pain in the arms, elbows, wrists, or fingers, and a dull ache or numbness in the arms. Increasing weakness with function in the arms, hands, and legs is common.

How do we diagnose myelopathy?

At the DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, we look for problems with reflexes and muscle weakness, particularly in the arms. We look for numbness in the arms and hands, and muscle atrophy. If we suspect myelopathy, we then progress to x-rays to check spinal alignment, particularly in the neck. From there, we use MRIs, CT scans, or myelograms to check for spinal cord compression.

Treating myelopathy

Treating of myelopathy ranges forms simple observation in younger patients to immediate surgery in patients with progressive weakness that could evolve into paralysis. Surgeries for myelopathy range from anterior surgeries to posterior surgeries, or both. In surgery, the goal is to decompress the spine.

If you have any of the symptoms of myelopathy, you need to call us at the DFW Center for Spinal Disorders immediately, 817-916-4685. We can help.

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