The clinical term “Myelopathy” refers to an injury of the spinal cord as a result of severe compression resulting from trauma, disc herniation, degenerative disease, congenital stenosis, etc. Usually, the spinal cord comprises a group of nerves that runs almost the entire length of our spine. Myelopathy occurs when any part of the spinal cord becomes constricted or compressed. Researches often mix up myelopathy with myopathy. Myopathy refers to a muscular disorder, while myelopathy means the damage of nerves inside our spinal cord 1.
Symptoms of myelopathy vary according to their location of origin, whatever the conditions cervical, thoracic, or lumbar myelopathy. Cervical myelopathy occurs in the neck area and the associated symptoms include pain in the neck and surrounding areas. Thoracic myelopathy occurs in the middle of the spine due to the compression due to the herniated discs, spinal trauma, or bone spurs. Symptoms associated with thoracic myelopathy include thoracic or abdominal pain and numbness in this affected area. Lumbar myelopathy represents a rare spinal disorder because, in most people, the spinal cord ends in the above of the lumbar spine 2.
The symptoms of myelopathy depend on the severity and the location of the pressure. Depending upon the cause, symptoms can develop quickly or slowly. Typical symptoms include loss of sensation, loss of function, and pain or discomfort in the area at the compression point. Other common symptoms of myelopathy include 1:
Myelopathy occurs due to the gradual degeneration of the spine, known as spondylosis. But this condition can also develop as a result of spinal deformity during birth. Myelopathy induced by several conditions such as injury, inflammation, hernia, cysts, spinal tumors, rheumatoid arthritic condition, bone spurs, trauma, flattening of the spinal cord between the vertebrae, etc. Other risk factors of myelopathy include age, overweight, pregnancy, diabetes, etc.
The prevalence and incidence rate of myelopathy estimates almost 605 and 41 per million in North America 3. Peoples of all ages can experience myelopathy, but older look more prone to develop it due to the arthritic condition. Cervical myelopathy comprises about 55% of the total myelopathy 4.
The initial diagnosis of myelopathy includes a brief clinical presentation and pain patterns of patients. Doctors may further recommend the following tests to narrow down the myelopathy diagnosis 5:
Treatment of myelopathy depends on the cause and symptoms of the patients. Most patients with myelopathy respond well to non-surgical, conservative treatment. Non-surgical myelopathy treatment includes 3:
Surgical treatment of myelopathy includes spinal decompression surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. This also helps to remove bone spurs or herniated discs around your spinal cord. You need to contact your doctor for the best available option for your treatment.