Myelopathy, at its most basic definition, is a disorder of the nervous system, most specifically the spinal cord. It commonly results from the spinal cord being compressed by another condition. Unfortunately, the only way to truly treat severe compression is through decompression surgery.
The spinal cord is made up of many nerves that run up and down the entirety of the spine. Whenever there is a condition that causes the compression or constriction of the spine and irritates the nerves, the resulting condition and its symptoms is called myelopathy. The compression usually is the result of various conditions, such as herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, or congenital stenosis.
As we age, our spines age too. The spine can easily become inflamed, we can develop arthritis, or spinal discs can flatten, all leading to irritating the nerves of the spine, which causes pain. The set of symptoms known as Myelopathy develop slowly over time as the spine ages with the body and it’s other back conditions.
Myelopathy symptoms are frequent but vary depending on the person. The symptoms come from the spine’s compression, which frequently causes pain where the actual compression is and the surrounding area such as the neck, arms, and lower back. The most common symptoms from this includes loss of function or sensation, neck or back pain, pain when walking, difficulty maintaining coordination and bodily balance, and tingling or numbness around the compression area.
Because Myelopathy symptoms can be signals of other conditions, various tests should be performed to pinpoint what is truly causing the pain and discomfort. Typically, physicians will perform an MRI scan, an X-ray, and test nerve functioning through an electromyogram. When a diagnosis is reached, there are several forms of treatment that can help ease the pain.
Non-surgical options for Myelopathy treatment include physical therapy, back braces, and pain medication. However, it should be noted that these treatments will only help to ease the discomfort as compression can only be attempted reversal with decompression surgery. Seeking nonsurgical treatments means that the condition will still progress. The chances of full recovery from the compression degrades as the condition worsens over time. Non-surgical treatments are used when the condition has developed past a surgical option or to ease the patient before they head into surgery.
The most common surgical treatment for Myelopathy is spinal decompression surgery. Its purpose is to relieve the pressure caused by the condition on the spinal cord. Additionally, the surgery is an ideal time to remove the cause Myelopathy in the first place, such as a herniated disc.
To properly prepare for surgical treatment, it is imperative that you live as healthy as possible. Daily exercise, eating well, getting enough rest, and indulging in your non-surgical treatments every day will keep the pain as suppressed as possible. Be aware that the road ahead to living pain free may seem long, but every step of the process must be followed by your doctor’s instruction to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.