What is Myelopathy?

Myelopathy refers to the condition in which the patient suffers from a gradual loss of nerve function due to disorders of spine. It can be due to a functional disturbance or pathological change in the spinal cord. This disorder is caused by damage or injury to the spinal cord. An injury to the spine can cause either paralysis or reduce sensation.

What Causes Myelopathy?

The most common cause of myelopathy is spinal stenosis, which is a gradual narrowing of the spinal canal. Spinal stenosis makes the space available for the spinal cord within the spinal canal much smaller. The bone spurs begin to press on the spinal cord and the nerve roots, and the pressure may start to interfere with the normal function of spinal nerves. Myelopathy can also be caused by degenerative disc disease. Patients with degenerative disc disease may experience varied degrees of loss in sensation and movement.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Myelopathy is usually first detected as difficulty in walking due to generalized weakness. Difficulty in walking due to problems with balance and coordination is also an important symptom of myelopathy. The gait may also become wobbly.

Other common symptoms of myelopathy include:

  • Subtle changes in the way the hands work
  • Clumsier hands: The patient may drop objects more often, may not be able to button their shirts easily, or may not be able to write properly
  • Unsteadiness: Patients may require holding onto objects more frequently while walking
  • Profound weakness and numbness in arms and legs
  • Changes in bowel or bladder control (in rare cases only)

This condition is diagnosed by studying the patient's medical history. The doctor will begin by asking the patient about the history of how the symptoms began and how they progressed. The doctor will ask a series of questions and carry out a physical examination that is directed primarily at the neck and nerve function in the arms and legs. The doctor will also check the balance and test the gait of the patient.

The doctor may request for X-rays to see signs of degenerative changes in the disc spaces or facet joints. The doctor may also order Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the neck. MRI pictures will allow them to visualize the structures which may be impinging on the spinal cord or the nerve branches. Electrical testing of the nerves and spinal cord may also be requested.


Treatment for advanced cases of myelopathy is surgery to decompress the spine. The goal of this surgery is to slow down or reduce the pressure on nerve roots. Unfortunately, this surgery can not guarantee relief. Another problem is that spine surgery is usually very complicated. In the elderly, the risks may outweigh the benefits.

For mild cases of myelopathy, the best course is usually pain management. Less serious cases can also be treated with a certain home remedies, such as a hot shower or over-the-counter medications and devices. Some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can also be helpful.

Risks and benefits:

Serious complications in myelopathy can be devastating. They can affect all functions of human body and can cause paralysis. Patients may loss their ability to walk, use their arms, or may even loss control of breathing. If preventive measures are not taken, this disorder may result in a further aggravated condition. This material is intended to give the patient an overview of surgical procedures and treatments and is not intended to replace the advice and guidance of a physician. Always consult with your doctor about the particular risks and benefits of your treatment.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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You may be a candidate for Cervical disc replacement


The spine, often referred to as the “backbone”, is comprised of a complex system of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. Besides supporting the weight of the upper body and facilitating movement, one of the spinal column’s most important functions is to house and protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve fibers connected to the brain and brain stem. Its main function is to transmit information to the body’s peripheral nervous system. Without a properly functioning spinal cord, the brain and the body cannot communicate effectively. For this reason, patients sustaining spinal cord damage may face severe disability, paralysis or life-threatening complications. Motor function, sensory abilities and other important aspects of health can decline or even disappear if the spinal cord becomes damaged.

The term “myelopathy” refers to the loss of spinal cord activity as the result of sudden injury or the natural degeneration of the spine. It is necessary to treat myelopathy proactively to maintain your quality of life and prevent the dangerous deterioration of the spinal cord. If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing myelopathy, schedule a consultation with one of our highly experienced spine surgeons today to prevent this serious condition from progressing.


The spinal cord is most frequently endangered by degenerative changes to the spine, such as spinal stenosis and disc protrusions or herniations. As we age, our spines lose water content and slowly reveal the consequences of years of everyday use and stress. Several age-related spine conditions can result in pressure being placed upon the spinal cord. In addition to the degeneration of the spine, some of the most commonly occurring causes of myelopathy are:

  • Benign or cancerous tumors that compress the spinal cord
  • Bone spurs
  • A dislocation fracture
  • A traumatic injury, as might occur during a motor vehicle accident, hard fall or high-impact sport
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis
  • Genetic predisposition or congenital abnormality

Annular Tear Symptoms

Usually, patients do not realize they have an annular tear until they begin to encounter symptoms of another condition that has developed as a result of the injury, such as the symptoms associated with a herniated disc or a compressed nerve. If you suspect you may be sustaining an annular tear, the following indicators may corroborate your speculations:

  • Back and leg pain that may be mild or severe
  • Discomfort that travels the length of a nerve
  • Pain that becomes worse when sitting, sneezing, coughing, lifting or bending forward
  • Numbness and weakness in the affected area and associated limbs
  • Tingling and pins-and-needles sensations in the back, groin, legs or arms

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing myelopathy, including:

  • Smoking
  • Age (the elderly are especially likely to encounter myelopathy)
  • The abuse of alcohol
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Participating in intense sports or physical activities, such as gymnastics or football
  • A lack of exercise
  • Making repetitive, strenuous movements (often an issue at jobs requiring highly physical or manual labor)
  • Improperly lifting heavy objects

If you suspect you may be at risk for developing myelopathy, schedule a consultation with one of our spine experts to discuss the best ways to minimize your risk and maintain the highest level of spinal cord functioning possible. Your spinal cord is crucial to your health and well-being, so it is of the utmost importance to promptly take care of it when issues or injuries arise.


The symptoms of myelopathy vary depending on the location and severity of the spinal cord problem. However, if you are concerned about myelopathy, look out for the following indications of this condition:
  • Pain in the shoulders and arms
  • Tingling, numbness or “pins-and-needles” sensations in the arms and legs
  • Trouble balancing, especially when attempting to walk
  • A heavy feeling in the legs and an inability to move quickly
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty writing
  • Problems turning or bending the neck or back
  • Lightheadedness
  • Problems with hand-eye coordination, as you may notice when attempting to get dressed or perform other daily activities
  • Irregular, spasmodic movements
  • Changes in sexual functioning
  • Bowel or bladder complications
  • Fatigue or frailty in the limbs
  • The feeling that the limbs are being shocked or electrified

Generally, the symptoms of myelopathy will increase and intensify over time. Receiving quick and professional medical attention is extremely important to avoid irreparable spinal cord damage. At Microspine, Dr. T and his team are committed to identifying the underlying cause of your symptoms and providing the safest and most optimal solutions.

Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach

An assumed or confirmed spinal cord diagnosis can be extremely alarming. However, you are not alone and can likely achieve satisfactory results through proper care. Dr. T and the team at Microspine regularly helps patients address spinal cord-related issues. Through patient-centric treatment and innovative care, we are able to provide healing for many men and women facing myelopathy. The first step to receiving the care necessary for recovery is to schedule a consultation with us at Microspine. During your initial visit, our surgeon will carefully and compassionately evaluate your symptoms, medical history and physical state. Oftentimes diagnostic tests like a CT scan or X-ray may need to be performed to confirm a diagnosis. After determining the nature and location of your condition, we will design a treatment plan to meet your unique needs and goals. If damage to the spinal cord is occurring because the nerve bundles are being compressed, surgery is almost always immediately necessary. However, the Minimally invasive surgeries available at Microspine bypass several of the negative aspects of traditional open surgeries. Advantages of most minimally invasive procedures include:
  • Shortened recovery times that allow patients to return to work and other daily activities more quickly
  • Less post-operative pain
  • A reduced risk of scarring, blood loss or trauma to muscles and surrounding soft tissues
  • Fewer potential complications

Because Dr. T is well-versed in both minimally invasive and traditional procedures, we are able to provide an open surgery if your unique case of myelopathy requires this approach.

We look forward to helping you feel better, faster!  CONTACT US