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Myelopathy Symptoms & Causes

The Facts About Myelopathy

Key Clinics serves patients in Northeast and Mid-Ohio suffering from a variety of spinal conditions. Led by board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Joel D. Siegal, our team is dedicated to helping patients achieve a better quality of life. Myelopathy is one of the many conditions that we treat.

What Is Myelopathy?

With this condition, the spinal cord becomes so severely compressed that the nerve signals traveling from the brain to the body are interrupted.  The spinal cord runs through the spinal canal or “sewer pipe” starting at the skull base ending in the upper lumbar region at the level just below the belly button.  When something narrows the spinal canal or channel, myelopathy could develop, indicating that a patient is losing normal spinal cord activity. In more serious cases, irreversible damage to the spinal cord can occur.

Types of Myelopathy

There are three types of myelopathy depending on the area of the spinal cord compression:

  1. Cervical Myelopathy – This is the most common type of myelopathy and affects the neck or cervical spine.  The point of compression occurs somewhere between the skull and the top of the shoulders, along the first 7 vertebrae of the spine.  People with cervical myelopathy can experience compromised fine motor skills, balance trouble and difficulty walking; numbness, tingling, pain and weakness in the shoulders, arms, and hands; trouble bending the neck or turning the head; and difficulty with eye-hand coordination.
  2. Thoracic Myelopathy – Thoracic myelopathy affects the thoracic region of the spinal cord between the top of the shoulders to just below the belly button.  The most common causes of thoracic myelopathy are trauma, herniated discs, or arthritis. With upper and mid-back involvement, people can notice trouble with balance, weakness, “heavy” legs, unsteady walking, loss of bowel or bladder control, and sexual dysfunction.
  3. Lumbar Myelopathy – This form of myelopathy occurs from spinal cord compression from just under the belly button region to the mid-low back.  The clinical presentation is similar to that seen with thoracic myelopathy.

Symptoms of Myelopathy

A patient’s exact symptoms depend on the location of the spinal cord compression causing the myelopathy. However, the most common abnormalities include:

  • Pain.
  • Numbness, tingling and decreased sensation.
  • Problems with movement, walking and balance.
  • Weakness, incontinence.
  • Exaggerated reflexes.
  • Irregular, sudden, stiff and spasmodic movements.

Causes of Myelopathy

This condition affects mostly senior patients who are over 50 years of age:

  • Spondylosis – Spondylosis, or arthritis of the spine, can cause severe compression of the spinal cord through herniated discs and bone spurs.
  • Spinal Column Inflammation – Myelopathy also develops in response to inflammation in the spinal column, commonly seen in people with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Spinal tumors or bone cancer – A tumor can compress the spinal cord causing a myelopathy.
  • Cyst – An arachnoid cyst (abnormal spinal fluid sac) or synovial cyst (arthritis sac extending from the facet joint of the spine) can cause spinal cord compression and myelopathy.
  • Genetics – Genetics and nutrition disorders can also cause the spinal cord to malfunction.
  • Trauma – Spinal cord injury can also cause spinal cord dysfunction.

If you currently struggle with the symptoms of this condition or have any concerns related to your spine or spine health, please contact us at Key Clinics. We offer our patients relief for this and many other conditions affecting the spine.