What is Myelopathy?
Myelopathy is a serious injury to the spinal cord due to severe compression that may result from trauma, congenital stenosis, degenerative disease or disc herniation. The spinal cord is a group of nerves housed inside the spine that runs almost its entire length. When any portion of the spinal cord becomes compressed or constricted, the resulting symptoms are known as myelopathy.
Myelopathy versus Radiculopathy
Myelopathy may sometimes be accompanied by radiculopathy. Radiculopathy is the term used to describe pinching of the nerve roots as they exit the spinal cord or cross the intervertebral disc, rather than the compression of the cord itself (myelopathy).
What Causes Myelopathy?
As you age, inflammation, arthritic illness, bone spurs and the flattening of the spinal discs between the vertebrae can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerve roots. Myelopathy typically develops slowly as result of the gradual degeneration of the spine (spondylosis), but it can also take an acute form or stem from a spine deformity present at birth.
- Common causes of myelopathy are degenerative spinal conditions, such as spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the bony passageways of the spine through which the spinal cord and nerve roots travel.
- Central disc herniations can also result in compression on the spinal cord, leading to the development of myelopathy.
- Autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis in the spine, can also lead to degenerative changes in the vertebrae that result in spinal cord compression and myelopathy.
- Hernias, cysts, hematomas and spinal tumors, including bone cancer, may also press on the spinal cord and lead to myelopathy.
- Acute myelopathy can develop quickly as a result of a spinal injury, spinal infection, inflammatory disease, radiation therapy or neurological disorders.
Myelopathy treatment depends on the causes of myelopathy. However, in some cases, the cause may be permanent and irreversible, so the treatment may only go as far as helping you relieve the symptoms or slowing down further progression of this disorder through decompression surgery.