Myelopathy, in general, refers to the pathology of the spinal cord. When referring to a medical condition affecting the spine, it’s commonly referred to as spinal cord compression. While myelopathy can be caused by a sudden trauma, sports-related injuries or inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, the most common reason for developing the condition is normal joint and muscle wear and tear associated with age.
Diagnosing myelopathy usually starts with a physical exam that includes a review of your medical history – excluding myelopathy resulting from trauma. During an initial exam, a doctor will check reflexes and look for signs of muscle weakness or deterioration before recommending further diagnosis that’s likely to include:
- X-rays (to check alignment of the spine)
- MRI (to identify compression and check for bone spurs)
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (a noninvasive test measuring neurological impulses to identify the specific area of the spinal cord affected)
Treatment of myelopathy usually starts with conservative spine treatments (i.e., pain medications, exercise). Temporary bracing is sometimes required. Unlike other back conditions like spinal stenosis or disc herniation, conservative treatments for myelopathy may result in neurological complications. Epidural steroid injections may be administered to treat inflammation and swelling that doesn’t respond to conservative treatments.
Surgery is often recommended with myelopathy, with options ranging from spinal decompression surgery performed from the back directly on the affected area of the spine to procedures performed by accessing the affected area through the front of the neck. Spinal fusion surgery may also be required if spine stability has been compromised during the procedure.
Myelopathy can have a direct impact on other preexisting neck-related conditions, including motor system syndrome, transverse syndrome, and central cord syndrome. If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions and are seeking relief from your pain and discomfort, call (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation with Dr. Hyun Bae, a trusted conservative spinal surgeon in Los Angeles. He will be able to present you with all your treatment options and can help you on your way to a more comfortable way of life.