Myelopathy is a term used to describe a condition where severe compression causes an injury to the spinal cord. This is different from Radiculopathy, where there is pain due to pinching of the nerve roots as they exit the spinal cord, rather than the spinal cord itself. Myelopathy can be a serious condition as the spinal cord is the chief pathway for information traveling from the brain to the peripheral nervous system (extremities).
Myelopathy can be caused by a variety of other conditions like:
Symptoms depend on the severity of the compression and the location, but may include:
Neck, arm, leg, or lower back pain.
Tingling, numbness, or weakness.
Difficulty balancing, walking, and coordination
Difficulty with fine motor skills, like writing
Bowel and bladder dysfunction
To diagnose, your doctor will perform a clinical exam and ask you a number of questions regarding your symptoms. Your doctor may look for abnormalities via a physical examination, X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Non-surgical intervention may be employed first in an attempt to manage symptoms in mild cases. However, non-surgical treatment will not remove compression, so symptoms may continue to progress. Spinal decompression surgery may be recommended. If left untreated, myelopathy can potentially cause permanent spinal cord damage.