MYELOPATHY

medical illustration of myelopathy

WHAT IS MYELOPATHY?

If you have myelopathy, you have experienced a severe compression to your spinal cord. It is typically a gradual process with the degenerative changes linked to aging. As a person ages, several things may start to happen:

 

  • The discs between the vertebrae start drying out and begin to bulge or herniate
  • The shape of the vertebra changes due to arthritis, causing spur-like protrusions
  • The ligaments linking your vertebrae thicken

 

It is a combination of these factors that usually lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal, eventually leading to pressure on the spinal cord and cervical myelopathy.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of myelopathy result from the compression of the spine and the pressure put on the nerves housed within the spine. Symptoms depend on where along the spine your myelopathy is located and may include:

 

  • Neck, arm, leg or lower back pain
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as writing or buttoning a shirt
  • Increased reflexes in extremities or the development of abnormal reflexes
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of urinary or bowel control
  • Issues with balance and coordination
spine pain due to Myelopathy
MRI image of cervical spinal stenosis and cord compression
MRI image of cervical spinal stenosis and cord compression
MRI image of decompressed spinal canal after endoscopic surgery
MRI image of decompressed spinal canal after endoscopic surgery

TREATMENT

Endoscopic spinal decompression surgery is designed to take pressure off the spinal cord and is a common surgical treatment for myelopathy. For more advanced myelopathy caused by stenosis, Dr. Shen may recommend a laminoplasty – a surgical procedure that increases the channel space of your spinal column. Spinal fusion may sometimes be a surgical alternative, depending on the extent and location of your myelopathy.