What is Cervical Myelopathy?
“Cervical Myelopathy is a condition that is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen many patients with so many problems from Cervical Myelopathy that have gone undiagnosed or misunderstood for many years, ” says Dr. Hulen. Cervical Myelopathy is a condition that causes dysfunction of the spinal cord. “What do I mean by that? It is a condition whereby your spinal cord cannot accurately convey the right messages from your brain to other parts of your body.” It makes it difficult for the person with Cervical Myelopathy to do commonly performed tasks.
What are Common Causes of Cervical Myelopathy?
“The most common cause of Cervical Myelopathy that I see as a spine surgeon is the spinal cord’s compression,” states Hulen. That can occur from many different things. It could be caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal that happens slowly over time, by accumulating bone spurs that develop over many years. Or by deformities within the neck that are due to rheumatologic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
However, the underlying thing tying all of these possibilities together is that it results in dysfunction of the spinal cord. A patient typically experiences this because the patient slowly develops difficulty using their hands, difficulty with the coordination of their hands, or a problem with walking in a coordinated manner.
What are Some Symptoms of Cervical Myelopathy?
The patient may notice that they are dropping items, stumbling when they walk, or tripping more frequently. Or when walking with a loved one, they may bump into the other person’s shoulder while walking down a pathway. If they live alone, they could be walking in a hallway at home and may notice they are bumping into the walls, or may have to hold on to the walls just for balance.
“These items are very important to recognize; one of the tragedies I see as a spine surgeon all too often is that many people frequently attribute these symptoms to simply growing older,” says Dr. Hulen. In reality, yes, we are all growing older, but growing older alone doesn’t cause these symptoms. In many cases it is due to the compression of the spine.
Is it Important to See a Doctor?
“Today, my purpose is to educate you about this condition and let you know that it’s essential that if you have these symptoms, you should be evaluated by a qualified spine surgeon.” You need a spine surgeon who can look at your condition, examine you, obtain Xrays, and sometimes an MRI of your cervical spine and let you know what is going on. You can have a menu of options to choose from in terms of how you would like to be treated. It is important that you don’t ignore these types of symptoms because, in many cases of Cervical Myelopathy, if it isn’t diagnosed, it will worsen over time.
We know that with this condition if it is treated earlier, the results are typically much better. Suppose you are diagnosed with Cervical Myelopathy due to a compressed spinal cord. In that case, some treatments can be performed, which can dramatically improve your life and halt the downward spiraling function that you may be experiencing.
“I would encourage you to be evaluated if you have these symptoms; not all cases require surgery right away.” Even when surgery is needed, sometimes it is a small surgery, and sometimes it’s a more extensive surgery. You owe it to yourself to get the facts so you can make a well-informed decision.
You can see Dr. Hulen talk about Cervical Myelopathy by watching the video below, or visit his page on our website for more information.