Myelopathy is a collective name for many different types of problems involving the spinal cord. When myelopathy occurs because of an accident or trauma, it is called a spinal cord injury. In other cases, myelopathy occurs as a result of a disease process, inflammation, circulatory disorder or other problem that ends up affecting the spinal column. This kind of myelopathy may come on gradually.
What you should know about myelopathy
- Myelopathy affects the entire spinal cord. It is not like other types of back problems where pain is localized to a specific area of the back, neck or legs.
- Myelopathy can be challenging to diagnose.
- Myelopathy is a serious condition that requires prompt and expert medical attention.
Causes of myelopathy
- An injury, accident, blow or other traumatic event to the spine can damage it and cause myelopathy. This may result in paralysis.
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, can damage the spinal cord and cause myelopathy.
- Degenerative disc disorders or other conditions that affect the spinal column, such as osteoporosis, can result in myelopathy.
- A tumor associated with the spinal column can cause myelopathy.
- Myelopathy may occur as the result of another disease, such as multiple sclerosis.
When myelopathy comes on gradually, symptoms may be overlooked at first. In older patients, some symptoms may be shrugged off as just normal aspects of growing older. The University Spine Center team has expertise in diagnosing myelopathy using:
- A physical examination
- Your medical history
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
- Other tests, as discussed with you
Since there are many forms of myelopathy, different patients will undergo different types of diagnostic tests.
Symptoms of myelopathy
People with myelopathy may have trouble with activities that require some degree of coordination, such as tying shoes or walking down stairs. It is not uncommon to have problems with balance, walking or muscle weakness. These symptoms may be mild at first and go unnoticed or at least not be a cause for concern. You should consult University Spine Center if you notice:
- Changes in coordination
- Sudden muscle weakness
- Inability to control your body, particularly hand-eye coordination, in ways you used to be able to do
Myelopathy and spinal cord injuries are serious and complex medical problems. In some cases, compression or pressure on the spinal cord will put pressure on nerves. This may cause pain, weakness or a lack of control. If you have muscle weakness and pain, you may be asked to consider surgery in order to relieve pressure on the nerves. Over time, pressure on a nerve can permanently damage it. While many cells in the body have the ability to repair themselves, nerve cells can, in some instances, be irreversibly damaged.
The team at University Spine Center understands that there are many factors that may influence the type of treatment you choose. Your University Spine Center team can offer you the latest, state-of-the-art options and techniques.