Is the Pain You're Feeling Due to Myelopathy?

Is the Pain You're Feeling Due to Myelopathy?

If you’re struggling with neck or back pain, getting a proper diagnosis is the first step in getting the relief you need to return to living as pain-free as possible. Scheduling a visit with an orthopedic specialist is the best way to get answers about your pain.

Myelopathy is the result of severe compression of the spinal cord. It can affect your neck (cervical), upper and middle (thoracic), or lower (lumbar) part of the spine. Anything that compresses the spinal cord can cause myelopathy. 

When persistent back pain strikes, it can make it nearly impossible to carry out your normal daily activities. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Thomas Jones II, MD, and our team at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas know how back pain can derail your life, and we can determine if myelopathy is the cause of your pain.

What is myelopathy?

Myelopathy refers to a group of symptoms caused by severe spinal compression. When the spinal cord is compressed, it can’t function properly. Patients experience pain, tingling, numbness, and loss of feeling in certain portions of the body.

The spinal cord is a network of nerves that transmits messages between your brain and the rest of your body. The vertebrae of the spine are designed to shield the spinal cord and prevent it from becoming compressed. However, narrowing of the spinal canal, degenerative disorders, and injuries can cause spinal cord compression.

Types of myelopathy 

The spinal cord travels within the vertebral column, which is composed of vertebrae cushioned by intervertebral discs and facet joints. There are three types of myelopathy, named based on the affected region of the spine. 

Cervical myelopathy

The cervical spine, your neck, consists of seven vertebrae, intervertebral discs, and nerve roots. In the cervical spine, eight nerve roots regulate your shoulders, arms, and hands. Compression in this area can cause pain and abnormal sensation in your neck and upper extremities. 

Thoracic myelopathy

Myelopathy is less likely to occur in the thoracic spine. When it does, bone spurs, bulging discs, and fractures are typical causes. Although this type of myelopathy originates in the central part of the spine, symptoms can occur in other areas like your lower back.

Lumbar myelopathy 

Lumbar myelopathy can cause a range of symptoms, from trouble with fine motor skills to changes in gait. It’s the least common type of myelopathy.

What caused my myelopathy? 

In most cases, myelopathy develops over time, frequently as a result of wear and strain or degenerative spinal disorders. Myelopathy is typically caused by spondylosis, a disorder characterized by the gradual degeneration of the spine.

To find out what’s causing your symptoms, Dr. Jones performs a careful physical examination, reviews your medical history, and orders relevant image testing. He then recommends an individualized treatment plan.

Myelopathy treatment

By the time patients see an orthopedic surgeon for myelopathy, they’ve often already tried nonsurgical approaches to manage their pain, such as epidural injections.

Myelopathy is commonly treated with spinal decompression surgery to reduce pressure on the spinal cord. If bone spurs or herniated discs are determined to be the cause of your myelopathy, they can also be surgically removed.

For advanced myelopathy caused by stenosis, Dr. Jones may propose a surgical procedure called laminoplasty to enlarge the spinal cord’s canal space. This helps preserve spinal cord flexibility at the compression point. Some patients may not be candidates for laminoplasty for various reasons.

Minimally invasive spine surgery aims to provide relief with a reduced risk of problems and a potential for a quicker recovery than standard open surgery. Dr. Jones reviews your options with you to determine the best plan.

There are treatment options for chronic back pain due to myelopathy. To find out which treatment is right for you, give our team a call to schedule a visit with Dr. Jones or request an appointment online.

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