Cervical myelopathy is a condition that affects the spinal cord in the neck (cervical spine). When the spinal cord becomes compressed in the neck it is called cervical myelopathy. Spinal cord compressed can lead to spinal cord damage. We call this compression around the spinal cord – spinal stenosis. This can be a serious condition that should be evaluated by a neurologist/neurological surgeon. Generally speaking, cervical stenosis causing myelopathy is due to the following conditions:
- Intervertebral disc herniation
- Spinal stenosis from degeneration of vertebrae (spine joints)
The symptoms of cervical myelopathy can include numbness in the hands, trunk, and limbs, stiffness in the arms and legs, loss of balance, neck pain, headache and weakness in the limbs. Symptoms may come and go without warning and can progress rapidly. This is a serious condition that can lead to paralysis and must be assessed immediately. Neck and back pain may not be present and as such cannot be relied on to make a diagnosis.
The treatment of compressive cervical myelopathy is directly related to its cause and how much compression exists. Treatment is centred around how to best take the compression off the spinal cord. The goal of surgery is to remove the pressure from the spinal cord. Surgery may be an option. This is called decompressive surgery (remove compression). Physiotherapy and sports chiropractic treatments that focus on rehabilitation exercises may be needed for any impairments such as weakness that result from the condition.