Cervical myelopathy is damage to the spinal cord. The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull. It extends to the first seven vertebrae. There can be a block of the signals between the brain and the body. Motor and sensory functions may be affected.
, multiple sclerosis, neuromyelitis optica) or other conditions (eg, vascular disease, degenerative disease)
History of bone or back problems
Being born with a narrow spinal canal
Job or sport involving regular stretching and straining of spine
Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to cervical myelopathy. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
Pain in shoulder and arms
Tingling or numbness in arms and legs
Trouble walking or balancing
Problems flexing neck
Problems with fine motor control (eg, buttoning a shirt)
Bowel or bladder problems
Weakness below waist or in all four limbs (in severe cases)
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. She will also do a physical exam, focusing on any muscle weakness. In addition, a neurological exam may be done, which assesses:
Tests may include:
X-ray—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body, including the spinal cord
myelogram—imaging test that uses a special dye to view the spinal cord and the area surrounding it
(EMG)—a test that measures the electrical activity that muscles generate at rest and in response to muscle contraction
Somatosensory evoked potentials—a test that evaluates conduction of the nerves in the spinal cord
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. This may involve:
Treating the underlying cause of the myelopathy
Restoring functions that you have lost
Reducing or managing pain
Doing strengthening exercises
Teaching you ways to reduce injuries
Helping you learn ways to cope with the condition
If there is structural pressure on the spinal cord, you may need surgery right away. This is to attempt to avoid permanent injury. There are many different kinds of surgery and procedures to stabilize the neck, such as:
Diskectomy—a surgical procedure to remove part of an intervertebral disc that is putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root
Laminectomy—a surgical procedure to remove a portion of a vertebra, called the lamina
Fusion of the vertebrae
Screws and a plate prevent the vertebrae from putting pressure on the spinal cord.
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary
. 28th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005;1270.
Young WB. Clinical diagnosis of myelopathy.
Sem Ultrasound, CT, MRI.
Young WF. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy: a common cause of spinal cord dysfunction in older persons. American Family Physician website. Available at:
. Published September 2000. Accessed November 20, 2008.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a