What Is Myelopathy?
Myelopathy describes a neurologic deficit related to the spinal cord. This refers to the loss of spinal cord activity as a result of an injury or natural degeneration of the spine. When the injury is caused by trauma, it is often called spinal cord injury.
What Is The Most Common Cause of Spinal Cord Injury?
Some of the most commonly occurring causes of myelopathy are:
- A dislocation fracture
- A traumatic injury. This can be due to a motor vehicle accident, hard fall or high-impact sport
- Autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis
Factors that may increase your risk of developing spinal cord injury, include:
- The abuse of alcohol
- Excess weight or obesity
- Improperly lifting heavy objects
Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injury
The symptoms of myelopathy vary depending on the location and severity of the spinal cord problem. Some of the conditions and symptoms associated with this problem include but are not limited to:
- Pain in the shoulders and arms
- Tingling, numbness or “pins-and-needles” sensations in the arms and legs
- Trouble balancing, especially when attempting to walk
- Muscle weakness
- Problems turning or bending the neck or back
Symptoms will increase and intensify over time. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid irreparable spinal cord damage.
How Is Myelopathy Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of myelopathy is made by a licensed medical professional and is usually based on clinical examination. Diagnostic imaging starting with radiographs of the affected areas advancing to either CT scans, myelograms and MRI’s.
Treatment of myelopathy ranges from simple observation for young patients with stable myelopathy advancing to immediate surgery to prevent progressive weakness that could evolve to paralysis from significant narrowing around the spinal cord. Surgeries for cervical spondylotic myelopathy range from anterior (front of the spine) surgeries to posterior (back of the spine) surgeries or possibly both.
Non-Surgical Myelopathy Treatment
Non surgical treatments allow for decreased pain reducing the inflammation associated with the spinal cord and nerve root. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are common non surgical treatments to help relieve and manage myelopathy related pain. Although this has been found to alleviate pain, there are many other conservative options that are geared towards the long-term health of the spine. These non-surgical treatment options include the following:
- Physical therapy is able to target and strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine
- Lifestyle changes to reduce heavy lifting and avoid painful motions and postures
- Quit unhealthy activities such as smoking and poor nutrition
- Soft collards target patients with myelopathy in the cervical (upper) portion of the spine
- Therapeutic massage to relax muscles and connective tissue