The word myelopathy doesn’t refer to a particular disease but to a number of problems or deformities that result in damage to the spinal cord. There are a number of different types of myelopathy caused by different factors, including inflammation, infection, trauma, or pressure on the spinal cord.
Causes and Symptoms of Spinal Myelopathy
The different types of myelopathy are categorized by their causes. Spinal damage caused by trauma is usually referred to as acute spinal cord injury while inflammatory causes are known as myelitis. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is the most common form of myelopathy, caused by arthritic changes in the cervical spine. In cases of CSM, the vertebral bones, discs, and ligaments degenerate and start to impinge on the spinal cord in the neck. This typically results in loss of coordination, muscle weakness, changes in gait, and neck pain or stiffness.
Though CSM is the most common form of myelopathy, it only accounts for 25 percent of cases. Other common causes for myelopathy include multiple sclerosis, neoplasm, or motor neuron disease. In some cases, myelopathy may be caused by osteoporosis or by spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that damages the spinal cord. Because the causes of myelopathy are so many and the symptoms so varied, diagnosis can be difficult. In fact, there are many cases that have been misdiagnosed because the symptoms of myelopathy are so similar to the natural course of aging.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Proper diagnosis of myelopathy requires a detailed family and medical history as well as a review of previous tests and procedures. Once the underlying cause of the problem has been identified, a specific course of treatment can be designed to target the cause and relieve symptoms. In many cases, treatment is aimed at restoring mechanical stability of the spine. In mild cases, surgery may not be the best option—it might be better to stabilize the spine with a brace and perform physical therapy to improve strength and flexibility.
In cases of cervical spondylotic myelopathy, treatment is generally designed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. Surgery is the most common and effective way to accomplish this goal, and there are a number of different approaches the surgeon might take. Even after surgery, epidural steroid injections may be used to relieve muscle pain and decrease inflammation. This treatment is generally used as a last resort, however, after conservative treatment options have failed.
Because treatment options for myelopathy vary so greatly, you want to know that you are being cared for by a professional who has experience with all kinds of myelopathy. At Jersey Spine Associates, we require a thorough medical history and physical examination as well as additional testing to ensure an accurate diagnosis, because a strong diagnosis is the key to successful treatment.
The treatment you receive from Dr. Ponnappan will be catered specifically to the details of your case to ensure that it suits your lifestyle and addresses the condition appropriately. Simply put, you are in good hands with Dr. Ponnappan at Jersey Spine Associates.