Our spinal surgeons are highly skilled and trained in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of various spinal disorders, including myelopathy. Their vast experience helps in providing you the most effective treatment plan based on your symptoms, the severity of the disease, and your individual needs.
The term myelopathy refers to the chronic symptoms that result from severe spinal cord compression, which often occur due to traumatic injury, degenerative aging, changes of the spine, or spinal deformities that are present at birth. Myelopathy ranges in severity and usually occurs in people above the age of 50, as a result of wear and tear. The symptoms arise as the spinal canal narrows down, resulting in compression of the spinal cord and its nerves. The chronic pain caused by myelopathy is often described as shooting pain that radiates to the hands and arms, along with tingling numbness and difficulty walking or standing for a long time.
Myelopathy commonly occurs as a result of spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal cord, or the nerves located in the spinal canal, are compressed due to a degenerative condition. When a nerve in the spinal cord is pinched, causing extreme pain, the condition is called myelopathy. A nerve can become pinched for a variety of reasons, including:
A wide range of surgical treatment procedures is performed at Marina del Rey Hospital to relieve spinal cord compression. The most appropriate spinal decompression procedure will be chosen depending on factors such as the level of the spinal cord that is affected, the severity of the symptoms, and a patient's general health. The surgical procedures commonly recommended to treat myelopathy include:
The spinal surgery experts at Marina del Rey Hospital are also well versed in minimally invasive spinal surgeries (stabilization surgeries) to treat myelopathy. Stabilization surgeries are an effective option because they involve smaller incisions and minimal disruption of muscles, which allows for faster recovery time and fewer complications than traditional open surgery procedures. Stabilization surgeries are usually done on an outpatient basis, meaning the patient can return home on the day of the surgery.
Milder forms of myelopathy can be initially treated with more conservative methods to relieve pain and discomfort while a patient decides on a surgical treatment. Medications, such as over-the-counter and prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are some of the most common non-surgical options to reduce spinal pain. Other treatment options include epidural steroid injections, physical therapy, bracing, use of soft cervical collars, and activity modification.
Depending on the spinal segment that is affected, myelopathy is divided into three different types:
Usually, spinal cord compression may lead to pain or discomfort accompanied by a loss of function and feeling at or near the site of injury.
The common symptoms of myelopathy include:
In order to make an accurate diagnosis of myelopathy, a doctor will perform a careful physical examination and order certain tests and scans. During the physical examination, the neck, hands, shoulders, and legs will be checked for abnormal reflexes, numbness or weakness, imbalance, and muscle atrophy.
The diagnostic tests that may be ordered include:
Common risk factors for myelopathy include:
Generally, myelopathy occurs as a result of age-related degenerative changes in the spinal discs. With increasing age, the discs become stiff as they lose water content and collapse. This leads to the formation of bone spurs around the disc, which narrow down the spinal canal, resulting in compression of the spinal cord. Movements such as lifting, bending, twisting, and pulling may lead to a herniated disc that in turn exerts pressure on your spinal cord.
Other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and traumatic injury to the spinal cord, may also cause myelopathy. The traumatic spinal injuries that give rise to myelopathy occur as a result of automobile collisions, accidental occupational injuries, falls, assaults, and sports injuries.
Several alternative treatment methods have been effective in relieving the symptoms of compressed spinal cord and myelopathy. A doctor will advise the most appropriate method based on a patient's individual condition. These methods include:
As myelopathy is a condition that results from the narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis), some preventive measures should always be taken in order to avoid the stenosis itself. Although certain causes of spinal stenosis, such as traumatic injury, cannot always be prevented, you can take the following preventive measures:
Are you experiencing symptoms of myelopathy? If you have any concerns related to spinal injury, the highly skilled spinal surgeons at Marina del Rey Hospital are here to help.
Robert Watkins III, M.D.See Profile »
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