Caused by various spinal conditions, myelopathy is spinal cord dysfunction associated with compression placed on the spinal cord.

What is Myelopathy?

  • Myelopathy is a spinal cord defect caused by irregular pressure placed on the spinal cord. Often causing chronic pain from mild to severe, myelopathy can be an incapacitating condition.
  • Myelopathy is not a warning sign of disease nor is a symptom; it is a disease. It is a chronic pain-related condition that develops from other spinal conditions. The conditions that commonly create myelopathy are ones that reduce space available for the spinal cord.
  • Many patients with myelopathy have said that their pain is distinct, yet similar to pain from other spinal conditions. This mimic-like effect of myelopathy makes the condition hard to properly diagnose.
  • Dissimilar from spinal conditions that simply compress the different nerve roots, myelopathy can cause nerve dysfunction and/or loss of nerve function along the spinal cord. Myelopathy damage always occurs below the compressed area. Nerve damage may worsen over time, and may become permanent.

What are the symptoms of it?

  • Pain that does not go away after 3 months, from mild to severe
  • Pain that may be sharp, dull, shooting, radiating, aching, burning, dull, deep, and/or throbbing
  • Limited fine motor function skills, such as the inability button a shirt or tie a shoe lace
  • Difficulty walking and keeping balance, as well as clumsiness
  • Feeling numbness, weakness, and/or tingling in the extremities
  • Feeling discomfort, stiffness, and/or tightness in the muscles
  • Loss of bladder control or other functions
  • Paralysis
  • Inability to perform daily activities, withdrawal from social activity, and/or increased desire to rest
  • Mood and behavior changes such as anxiety, irritability, and/or depression

What causes it?

Myelopathy is a type of pain that develops from a previous and/or current spinal condition. It occurs from the spinal cord being compressed from spinal abnormalities that reduce the space available for the cord. This may result from a herniated and/or bulging disc, degenerative disc disease, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, thickened ligaments, and spondylosis.

How do you treat it?

Treatment depends on the spinal condition that caused myelopathy and whether the nerve impingement is severe enough to result in damage. All treatment for properly diagnosed cases of myelopathy must focus on removing the irregularity that is compressing the spinal cord, whether through conservative methods of treatment or surgery.

Most patients without nerve damage are prescribed conservative methods of treatment before being recommended surgery. However, patients with nerve damage are treated with urgency and are urged to get surgery as soon as possible. Conservative methods of treatment for myelopathy may include: rest, relaxation, hot and cold compresses, physical therapy, pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications, and steroidal injections.

Severe cases of myelopathy are treated with surgery to remove the material causing spinal cord constriction. A discectomy or microdiscectomy may remove a herniated or bulging disc, while a laminotomy or laminectomy may treat spinal stenosis. A spinal fusion may remove bone spurs and a herniated disc, while fusing vertebrae for stability. If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for a spine procedure, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.