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What Is Myelopathy and How Does it Occur?

Myelopathy describes any neurologic symptoms related to the spinal cord and is a serious condition as it can cause permanent spinal cord injury. This occurs from pressure on the spinal cord from spinal stenosis, a disc herniation, and [PS1] bone spurs. Myelopathy is a very serious condition that if untreated can lead to significant and permanent nerve damage including paralysis and death.

Symptoms may affect one’s gait and balance, fine motor skills including dexterity, grip strength, and bowel and bladder function. It can impinge nerve roots and cause radiculopathy to create pain, weakness, or sensory changes in either arms or legs. Positional sense of both arms and legs may be affected making it difficult to use arm and hands and to know where you are placing your feet as you walk.

Other Symptoms:

  • You may notice your handwriting change.
  • You may walk differently and have difficulty balancing, frequently stumbling or falling.
  • You may drop items and have difficulty performing fine motor tasks such as buttoning your clothes, clasping your jewelry or even typing.
  • It can alter your bowel or bladder function; you may lose a sense of needing to urinate or be unable to hold your bladder and have incontinence.

Any of these symptoms are important to recognize and require urgent medical evaluation. Surgery is warranted in cases of myelopathy. Multiple surgical procedures exist to treat stenosis and depend on your specific pathology.  All share the surgical goal of relieving pressure on the spinal cord.

If you suspect you or a family member suffers from this condition, please contact Virginia Spine Institute for an initial consultation.


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This is a cervical MRI. The white arrow points to stenosis in the neck. The white color in the spinal cord (normally dark grey) signifies myelomalacia, or bruising of the spinal cord.

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