“Cervical” 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 which can 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 include a painful, stiff neck; arm pain; or 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.
Pressure on the spinal cord due to cervical myelopathy may not go away without surgery. If the symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may recommend surgical procedures such as an cervical laminectomy or laminoplasty which removes a section of bone or creates a hinge joint to take the pressure off the spinal cord. Another surgical option is fusion which connects two or more vertebrae together to stop motion at the painful area.