Anything involving the spinal cord is a cause for concern, but if dealing with myelopathy,
the concern may be more serious than expected. If left untreated, myelopathy can be a
detrimental condition causing permanent damage on the nerves which could lead to not
only paralysis, but even possibly death.
Myelopathy is a condition which describes any neurologic symptoms that could affect
the spinal cord. As with many conditions and diseases involving the spinal area,
compression on the nerves and cord could result in myelopathy. This compression
could come from piercing trauma, deformities in the spine or a slipped disk in the
cervical spine. In other cases, though not as common, infectious, vascular, nutritional,
idiopathic or inflammatory disorders could be the cause of myelopathy. Even still,
sometimes myelopathy forms due to cysts or tumors. Other causes of myelopathy
include rheumatoid arthritis or previous injuries on or around the spine.
Regarding symptoms, a person may notice several abnormal signs, but not be certain
what is causing the symptoms. These signs could include anything from grip strength,
bowel or bladder function, balance, walking or even a person’s fine motor skills. All of
these could be a sign of myelopathy. In addition, an individual may also notice pain or
changes in their senses in their arms and/or legs. Other signs could be a stiff neck, a
tingling sensation in the hands, fingers or arms or weakness in your arms or shoulders.
Examples of these symptoms would be tripping or stumbling while walking, not being
able to button your pants, you may not even be able to tell when you need to urinate,
much less be able to control holding your bladder. Because these are all regular day to
day actions, if you notice any or all of these symptoms, it is important to consult with a
doctor immediately. The sooner the doctor is able to diagnose a person with
myelopathy, the sooner they will be able to relieve the spinal cord of whatever pressure
may be on it.
To diagnose an individual with myelopathy, a doctor will order an MRI and do a routine
checkup of the legs, arms, neck and back. Upon receiving the results of the MRI, a
doctor will be able to determine the progression of the myelopathy, as well as whether
or not the patient needs certain types of surgeries due to different factors such as if a
slipped disc is the cause or if a previous injury is the cause. Based on what is causing
the myelopathy, a doctor may choose different treatment plans.
For some cases, a doctor may recommend physical therapy, a cervical collar to wear
around the neck to provide the neck rest, or simply prescribe medication, while with
others, they may deem it necessary to perform a surgery. Because of where the spinal
cord is located and the purpose and control the nerves have over the body, surgeries
can be dangerous in this area at times. However, in many cases surgery is performed.