What is Myelopathy?



The spine, often referred to as the “backbone”, is comprised of a complex system of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. Besides supporting the weight of the upper body and facilitating movement, one of the spinal column’s most important functions is to house and protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve fibers connected to the brain and brain stem. Its main function is to transmit information to the body’s peripheral nervous system. Without a properly functioning spinal cord, the brain and the body cannot communicate effectively. For this reason, patients sustaining spinal cord damage may face severe disability, paralysis or life-threatening complications. Motor function, sensory abilities and other important aspects of health can decline or even disappear if the spinal cord becomes damaged.

The term “myelopathy” refers to the loss of spinal cord activity as the result of sudden injury or the natural degeneration of the spine. It is necessary to treat myelopathy proactively to maintain your quality of life and prevent the dangerous deterioration of the spinal cord. If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing myelopathy, schedule a consultation with one of our highly experienced spine surgeons today to prevent this serious condition from progressing.


Causes

The spinal cord is most frequently endangered by degenerative changes to the spine, such as spinal stenosis and disc protrusions or herniations. As we age, our spines lose water content and slowly reveal the consequences of years of everyday use and stress. Several age-related spine conditions can result in pressure being placed upon the spinal cord. In addition to the degeneration of the spine, some of the most commonly occurring causes of myelopathy are:

  • Benign or cancerous tumors that compress the spinal cord
  • Bone spurs
  • A dislocation fracture
  • A traumatic injury, as might occur during a motor vehicle accident, hard fall or high-impact sport
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis
  • Genetic predisposition or congenital abnormality

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing myelopathy, including:

  • Smoking
  • Age (the elderly are especially likely to encounter myelopathy)
  • The abuse of alcohol
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Participating in intense sports or physical activities, such as gymnastics or football
  • A lack of exercise
  • Making repetitive, strenuous movements (often an issue at jobs requiring highly physical or manual labor)
  • Improperly lifting heavy objects

If you suspect you may be at risk for developing myelopathy, schedule a consultation with one of our spine experts to discuss the best ways to minimize your risk and maintain the highest level of spinal cord functioning possible. Your spinal cord is crucial to your health and well-being, so it is of the utmost importance to promptly take care of it when issues or injuries arise.

Symptoms

The symptoms of myelopathy vary depending on the location and severity of the spinal cord problem. However, if you are concerned about myelopathy, look out for the following indications of this condition:

  • Pain in the shoulders and arms
  • Tingling, numbness or “pins-and-needles” sensations in the arms and legs
  • Trouble balancing, especially when attempting to walk
  • A heavy feeling in the legs and an inability to move quickly
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty writing
  • Problems turning or bending the neck or back
  • Lightheadedness
  • Problems with hand-eye coordination, as you may notice when attempting to get dressed or perform other daily activities
  • Irregular, spasmodic movements
  • Changes in sexual functioning
  • Bowel or bladder complications
  • Fatigue or frailty in the limbs
  • The feeling that the limbs are being shocked or electrified

Generally, the symptoms of myelopathy will increase and intensify over time. Receiving quick and professional medical attention is extremely important to avoid irreparable spinal cord damage. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our experienced physicians and surgeons are committed to identifying the underlying cause of your symptoms and providing the safest and most optimal solutions.

Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach

An assumed or confirmed spinal cord diagnosis can be extremely alarming. However, you are not alone and can likely achieve satisfactory results through proper care. The team of spine surgeons at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® regularly helps patients address spinal cord-related issues. Through patient-centric treatment and innovative care, we are able to provide healing for many men and women facing myelopathy.

The first step to receiving the care necessary for recovery is to schedule a consultation at one of our state-of-the-art facilities. During your initial visit, one of our knowledgeable physicians will carefully and compassionately evaluate your symptoms, medical history and physical state. Oftentimes diagnostic tests like a CT scan or X-ray may need to be performed to confirm a diagnosis. After determining the nature and location of your condition, we will design a treatment plan to meet your unique needs and goals.

If damage to the spinal cord is occurring because the nerve bundles are being compressed, surgery is almost always immediately necessary. However, the minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries available at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® bypass several of the negative aspects of traditional open surgeries. Advantages of most minimally invasive procedures include:

  • Shortened recovery times that allow patients to return to work and other daily activities more quickly
  • Less post-operative pain
  • A reduced risk of scarring, blood loss or trauma to muscles and surrounding soft tissues
  • Fewer potential complications

Because our surgeons are well-versed in both minimally invasive and traditional procedures, we are able to provide an open surgery if your unique case of myelopathy requires this approach.

Almost all treatment plans for spinal cord difficulties include conservative methods of care alongside surgical intervention. Some of the non-invasive modifications that may be a part of your treatment or recovery plan are:

  • Physical therapy to reduce strain upon the spine, strengthen the muscles that support the upper body and progressively restore some of the function lost from spinal cord damage
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medication to minimize the pain associated with myelopathy
  • Localized injections to deliver pain-relieving agents directly to the affected region

Throughout every step of your recovery process, the team of spine experts at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® will be there to help you attain optimal healing. Many patients are able to heal from myelopathy and we look forward to helping enhance your quality of life.

To learn more about myelopathy, minimally invasive surgery or Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on this page. We look forward to speaking with you!

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