Cervical myelopathy is a condition that affects the neck (cervical spine) component of the spinal cord. Compression of the spinal cord occurs in cervical myelopathy. Spinal cord compression may lead to sensation changes and muscle strength problems in the arms and legs. In some cases of cervical myelopathy, patients can experience a loss of the ability to walk, hand control and muscle wastage.
Behind every cause of cervical myelopathy is a structure that has started to pinch or compress the spinal cord in the neck. The central spinal canal is the hole in which the spinal cord travels down the back through the vertebrae. In spinal stenosis, the central spinal canal is reduced, and compression of the spinal cord occurs. A herniated disc degenerated disc, tumour, infection or disease process can cause spinal stenosis.
The symptoms of cervical myelopathy can develop gradually or abruptly depending on the disease process or mechanism that is underlying this condition. Depending on the severity of the compression, there will typically be muscle weakness, sensory loss, hyperreflexia (exaggerated reflexes), and gait clumsiness.
Cervical myelopathy is a medical emergency in most cases. A referral will be given to a specialist medical practitioner such as a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. The surgeon aims to decompress the neck and take the pressure off the spinal cord.
Read further about head and jaw conditions:
- Subdural haematoma
- Epidural haematoms
- Temporomandibular disorders
- Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)
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