Myelopathy, also called spinal cord compression, is the general name given to describe problems concerning the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a group of nerves located inside the spine. When any portion of the spinal cord becomes compressed, it can lead to several different neurological disorders.
Causes of Myelopathy
Myelopathy is typically a gradual degenerative process affecting older adults. As you age, inflammation, arthritis, bone spurs, and the flattening of spinal discs between vertebrae can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Myelopathy can also be the result of:
- Acute trauma
- Disc herniation
- Spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal
- Spinal tumors, hernias, and cysts
- Autoimmune diseases
- Dislocation or fracture
When the spinal cord is compressed or injured, it may cause a loss of sensation, loss of function, and pain or discomfort in the area at or below the compression point. Some of the more common symptoms of myelopathy include:
- Pain in the shoulders and arms
- Tingling and numbness in the arms and legs
- Trouble balancing while walking
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty writing
- Problems with hand-eye coordination while performing daily tasks
Myelopathy is a serious and complex medical condition that usually requires surgical intervention to take pressure off the nerves. Nonsurgical treatment does not remove the compression of the spinal nerves, and may only help relieve symptoms caused by the compression of the spinal cord.
Minimally invasive spine surgery offers a potentially faster recovery time with a lower risk of complications. Spinal decompression surgery is a common treatment for myelopathy to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. Surgery to remove bone spurs and repair herniated discs may also be used depending on the cause of myelopathy.
For more advanced myelopathy, a laminoplasty may be used to increase the channel space to relieve any compression of the spinal cord. An alternative procedure would be decompression and spinal fusion. Consult your physician to determine which course of action is best for you.