The word “Cervical” in Cervical Myelopathy, refers to the first seven vertebrae of your spinal column. These vertebrae provide a bony network that protects the spinal cord and supports the neck and head.
With cervical myelopathy, the spinal cord is squeezed inside the tube of the spinal canal in the neck. This is the most common spinal cord problem in the United States and is most common in people over 50 years of age.
Cervical Myelopathy may be caused by arthritis in the neck or by degenerative changes in the discs. These changes to the discs cam lead to reduced disc height and bulging of the disc material into the spinal canal.
The bones of the cervical spine may also enlarge and grow spurs on the edge of the vertebrae. If the bone spurs get large enough, they can stick into the spinal canal and take up space, making the spinal canal narrower.
Symptoms of Cervical Myelopathy
Symptoms of cervical myelopathy often include:
- Painful, stiff neck
- Arm pain
- Numbness in the arms, hands, or fingers
Some people feel a weakness in their arms and legs and mention dropping things accidentally or feeling stiff or clumsy when they walk. It’s important to take these symptoms very seriously. If left untreated, severe cervical myelopathy may lead to permanent nerve or spinal cord damage.
The symptoms of cervical myelopathy may be treated with non-surgical methods such as physical therapy, pain medications, or the use of a soft neck collar.
Causes of Cervical Myelopathy
The most common causes of cervical myelopathy are congenital stenosis and degenerative stenosis caused by spondylosis (degenerative osteoarthritis). When it is caused by spondylosis it is commonly referred to as cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common condition affecting around 1% of the population. Around 90% of patients with RA have cervical spine involvement with between 11% and 58% of these patients having neurological involvement. Many of these patients have cervical myelopathy.
Diagnosing Cervical Myelopathy
The diagnosis of cervical myelopathy is primarily based on the clinical signs found on physical examination and is supported by imaging findings of cervical spondylosis with cord compression.
Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques
Pressure on the spinal cord due to cervical myelopathy may not go away without surgery. In minimally invasive surgery, a small incision is made, sometimes only ½ inch in length. The minimally invasive spine surgeon inserts special surgical instruments through the tiny incisions to access the damaged disc. Unlike traditional, “open” spine surgery, entry and repair to the damaged disc or vertebrae is achieved without harming nearby muscles and tissues. Less muscle and tissue damage results in less pain and a faster recovery of the patient.
If surgery is necessary, it will likely be one of the following minimally invasive procedures:
Minimally Invasive Laminectomy
Sometimes pressure, often caused by overgrowth of the facet joints related to arthritis, can cause pain in the spine. A Laminectomy removes the back portion of vertebra—the lamina—and creates more space, or creates a hinge joint to take the pressure off the spinal cord.
Minimally Invasive Fusion
This surgery usually involves making a small incision through the patient’s back. With a Minimally Invasive Fusion, the ruptured disc is removed to alleviate pressure and then we use metal screws, rods and bone grafts to fuse the spine. With some patients, it’s necessary to fuse the spine through the abdomen and others will need surgery both through the front and the back.
Advanced Techniques, Faster Recovery
Minimally invasive surgery of the spine includes numerous advanced techniques and technologies. DISC of Louisiana is a locally owned Orthopaedic Spine Group specializing in the treatment of Cervical Myelopapathy, as well as a wide range of other spinal conditions. Dr. Shamieh and Dr. James specialize in the latest minimally invasive spinal procedures before unavailable in south Louisiana.
If you have questions about spinal stenosis or the minimally invasive spine procedures offered by DISC of Louisiana, please contact us to schedule an evaluation at one of our clinics across the south Louisiana region.
DISC of Louisiana Locations
This site is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. Through this site and links to other sites, DISC of Louisiana provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site, or through links to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use this information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. DISC of Louisiana is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site.