Myelopathy is a spinal cord injury caused by severe compression resulting from congenital stenosis, trauma, disc herniation, or degenerative disease. The spinal cord refers to a group of nerves inside the vertebrae running down its entire length. If any part of the spinal cord becomes constricted or compressed, they may result in symptoms called “myelopathy.” Myelopathy should not be confused with Myopathy, which has a similar name but refers to a muscular disorder.
Myelopathy can impact any area of the spine and is classified depending on the area of the spine where it appears. Common types of myelopathy include:
- Cervical myelopathy– This is the most common form of myelopathy and occurs in the neck region. A symptom of cervical myelopathy is neck pain, although it doesn’t always appear
- Thoracic myelopathy– Thoracic myelopathy affects the middle region of the spine, and typically is due to bulging or herniated discs, spinal trauma, or bone spurs.
- Lumbar myelopathy– This is a rare condition since the spinal cord ends in the top section of the lumbar spine in most people. However, lumbar myelopathy may develop in those who have low-lying or tethered spinal cords.
How To Spot Myelopathy
A compressed or injured spinal cord may result in a loss of function, a loss of sensation, and pain or discomfort in the area at or below the point of compression. Different symptoms will depend on where the myelopathy is located in the spine. Symptoms of myelopathy may include:
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness
- Neck, leg, arm, or lower back pain
- Difficulty with fine motor skills like buttoning a shirt or writing
- Difficulty moving the lower body
- Increased reflexes in the extremities or abnormal reflexes
- Problems with balance and coordination
- Loss of control of urinary or bowel function
Symptoms of myelopathy can be very general and are often not specific to this condition. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you should consult with your physician. Some ways your doctor may diagnose your condition include:
- An MRI scan for a detailed analysis of the spine and spinal canal
- Myelography, which uses a contrast material and fluoroscopy to reveal abnormalities of the spinal cord
- Electrical tests like somatosensory evoked potentials or an electromyogram
Myelopathy may be part of another underlying condition involving the spinal cord. For instance, your doctor may evaluate you and determine that you have thoracic disc disorder with myelopathy, or cervical stenosis with myelopathy. If it is part of another disease, then it may be referred to in terms of the other disease. Diabetic myelopathy, for example, refers to a spinal cord that has been damaged by diabetes. If the spinal cord has suffered damage to a carcinoma, then it is referred to as carcinomatous myelopathy.
Contact Us Today
Myelopathy requires diagnosis by a doctor, who may refer you to a spine specialist for treatment or ongoing evaluation. Call The Spine and Scoliosis Center to schedule an appointment at one of our Florida locations today.