Myelopathy also called spinal cord compression is when the spinal cord is damaged and symptoms develop. A common cause of myelopathy is injury, such as from car accidents, sports impacts, and falls. These injuries often affect the muscles and ligaments that stabilize the spine, and can also cause bone fractures and joint dislocations. Myelopathy can also be caused by an inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis, which attacks the joints in your spine and typically affects the area of your upper neck. Less common causes of myelopathy include tumors, infections, and congenital abnormalities of the vertebrae present at birth. The damage to the spinal cord is typically from trauma or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). Damage to the spinal cord may be irreversible.
The most common symptoms of myelopathy
include neck stiffness, deep aching pain in one or both sides of the neck and possibly the arms and shoulders, or stiffness and weakness in the legs and difficulty when walking. Early symptoms of myelopathy are imbalance with standing and walking, and difficulty with fine motor movements of the hands. Patients may experience difficulty picking up fine objects like coins or pieces of paper. They may have difficulty holding onto things or dropping things unexpectedly. Some people report trouble with buttoning buttons or worsening of their hand writing. In extreme cases, there may be loss of function of the bowel or bladder.
to decompress the spinal cord is the best treatment for most patients with myelopathy, however, some patients find mild symptoms can be managed with the use of anti-inflammatory medication, oral corticosteroid medications, and physical therapy. Epidural steroid injection is also known to benefit some myelopathic patients. Our Spine specialists are available to evaluate patients with myelopathy and discuss conservative and operative treatment options.
A vertebra can break, or fracture, just like any other bone in the body. Vertebral compression fractures in the spine occur when a vertebral body has been weakened due to severe trauma, but is also the result of cancer or osteoporosis. Compression fractures are most common in the vertebrae of the lower back. Vertebral compression fractures may cause severe back pain, limited mobility, and/or a “hunched-over” appearance due to the change in shape of the vertebral body. Patients who experience a vertebral compression fracture are at significant risk for another fracture within the next five years. Multiple compression fractures can lead to reduced lung function, weight loss, depression and significant spinal deformity.
The most common treatments for a compression fracture are decreasing activity, the use of spinal support braces, and pain medications. Compression fractures usually take about three months to fully heal. When compression fractures require more aggressive treatment, minimally invasive procedures called vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty are effective in the quick treatment of the pain associated with vertebral compression fractures. Our Spine specialists are available to evaluate patients with compression fractures and discuss available treatment options.