Frequently Asked Questions About Cervical Myelopathy

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

What is Cervical Myelopathy?: Cervical Myelopathy is the leading cause of spinal cord injury in the world,. As the spinal column degenerates, the injury to the spinal cord is caused by cord compression from the encroaching tissue. The discs, the joints, and the ligaments all degenerate in the spine; and for some, that means that the spinal cord will get pinched in the process.

What are the symptoms of Cervical Myelopathy?:
Some will not even notice anything, even though the MRI shows cord compression. Fortunately, "in the absence of neurological findings on initial assessment; patients with radiographic evidence only of cervical stenosis are likely to remain asymptomatic with no problems". The less fortunate experience neurological signs of central cord compression like brisk reflexes, pathological reflexes like Hoffman's and clonus, bowel or bladder function changes. Others experience limited radiculopathy symptoms of just limb pain, numbness or tingling. However, those with just radiculopathy symptoms and spinal stenosis should worry because they are very likely to eventually progress to cord compression situation. Of note, cranial nerves will not be involved with spinal stenosis and cervical myelopathy. That's an important distinction between cervical stenosis and ALS.

What should I avoid if I have Cervical Myelopathy?

  • High Risk Activities to avoid include: heavy lifting, jumping, landing, anything that requires significant ranges of motion like painting a ceiling, and spinal manipulation; all of which could make the condition worse.

  • High Risk Environments: Slippery, icy or other environments that increase the odds of falling.

What can be done for Cervical Myelopathy? Unless there is an absence of neurological findings, then surgery is the best solution for Cervical Myelopathy for two main reasons. First, this condition is usually progressive and unpredictable. Second, the surgical outcomes are far superior to conservative management. Spinal decompression with or without spinal fusion is the best way to halt the spinal cord injury.

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.