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Cervical Myelopathy Treatment in Illinois

Neck Pain Specialists Here to Help You

Cervical myelopathy refers to compression of the spinal cord in the neck or upper back. The condition is commonly tied to age-related degeneration of discs and facet joints, causing narrowing of the spinal canal and cord dysfunction. Herniated discs may also contribute to cervical myelopathy, impinging the cord as it passes through the narrow canal. Although it is rarely painful, the condition is progressive, causing various symptoms.

What Is Cervical Myelopathy?

The diameter of the spinal cord averages approximately 10mm in the neck. Clearance is adequate in a normal spinal canal, measuring 17mm-18mm, but as degeneration and other causes narrow the passage to 12mm-14mm, cervical myelopathy and related symptoms are likely to develop.

Among the most common spinal complaints of patients over 50, age-related risk factors for cervical myelopathy include bone spurs, thickened ligaments, and bulging discs. Although the condition is more prevalent among the elderly, damage to the sensitive fibers of the spinal cord can also result from acute trauma or injury, prompting mid-life symptoms.

Causes of Cervical Myelopathy

Cervical myelopathy occurs when the long tracts of the spinal cord are compressed passing through the cervical spinal canal. Stenosis, or narrowing of the spine’s bone passage, reduces the spinal cord’s clearance through the canal, commonly resulting in myelopathy symptoms. The progressive condition typically develops slowly, as a result of degenerative changes to the cervical spinal structure. However, the onset of symptoms may be accelerated due to acute trauma or sports injury.

The pathological processes responsible for cervical myelopathy include the following causes:

  • Spondylosis – Cervical spondylotic myelopathy develops with age, resulting from disc degeneration and arthrosis of facet joints. Over time, this form of osteoarthritis diminishes the diameter of the cervical spinal canal, causing cord compression. CSM is so common among the elderly; radiological studies show signs of spondylosis in a majority of patients over age 70. Many rheumatoid arthritis patients with cervical involvement experience myelopathy.
  • Congenital Factors – Some people are born with naturally narrow spinal canals. The congenital condition doesn’t usually manifest symptoms, until further stenosis occurs later in life.
  • Herniated Disc – In addition to progressive disc disease associated with spondylotic myelopathy symptoms, acute disc herniation can also contribute to cervical compression.
  • Trauma – Acute trauma can precipitate cervical myelopathy symptoms, particularly among those with canals of narrow diameter.
  • Ossification – Thought to affect about 25% of patients diagnosed with cervical myelopathy, ossification, or formation of bone on vertebral bodies, can impinge the spinal cord, causing myelopathy.

Symptoms of Cervical Myelopathy

Depending upon the exact cause and severity of each condition, cervical myelopathy may present the following symptoms:

  • Poor coordination and/or balance, clumsiness
  • Heaviness in the legs
  • Numbness
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Problems with fine motor control – writing, etc.
  • Arm and leg weakness
  • Pain is reported in many cases, but isn’t always present
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Leg stiffness with rigid gait
  • Decreased dexterity
  • Poor exercise tolerance

Call (630) 584-1400 to schedule an appointment with one of our neck specialists.