Risk Factors for Myelopathy
Common risk factors for myelopathy include:
- Aging: One of the most common risk factors for the development of myelopathy is the natural aging process and degeneration. As a person gets older, the spinal cord tends to compress due to daily wear and tear changes that invariably increase the risk of a herniated disc or bone spurs.
- Excess body weight: People who are overweight or obese tend to have an increased risk of developing myelopathy, as excessive body weight places increased amounts of stress on the spine, causing it to degenerate at a faster rate.
- Active participation in certain sports activities: Contact sports that often involve collisions and repetitive motions can lead to accelerated spine degeneration and, eventually, spinal cord compression. Sudden traumatic injuries to the back during sports activities may also cause bulging discs that exert pressure on the spinal cord. Sports activities that increase the risk of spinal injuries and myelopathy include football, golf, gymnastics, rugby, and hockey.
- Genetic factors: A person's inherited genes may make them more susceptible to degenerative spine disease that can lead to the development of myelopathy. Sometimes, people with a congenitally narrow spinal canal may develop degenerative spinal stenosis, which can cause spinal cord impingement.
Causes of Myelopathy
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.