Myelopathy

Neurosurgical Specialists of West County

Neurosurgeons located in Saint Louis, MO

Pain, trouble keeping your balance, or difficulty performing simple activities, electrical shock sensation running down your back and extremities (Lhermitte’s Sign) are potential warning signs of myelopathy, a compression of your spinal cord. Neurosurgical Specialists of West County in St. Louis, provides effective treatments for this condition, including surgery to treat the underlying cause, whether it’s spinal trauma or an aging disc. Find out about your options today by calling our office.

Myelopathy Q & A

What is myelopathy?

Myelopathy is caused by severe compression on your spinal cord. Compressive myelopathy typically is brought on by spinal trauma, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, calcification of intraspinal ligaments, or spinal instability, including rheumatoid arthritis and various spinal tumors. With myelopathy, you may experience:

  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Imbalance
  • Electric shock sensations

Myelopathy is more common with age. It comes in three forms, each based on the location of the compression. Myelopathy may not be painful. However, once recognized requires urgent resolution especially when the symptoms are severe (paralysis), acute (days to weeks) or progressive. 

Cervical myelopathy

The most common type of myelopathy, cervical myelopathy occurs in the neck. Myelopathy here usually causes neck pain, although not in every case. 

Thoracic myelopathy

This form of myelopathy is present in the middle part of your spine. Typical causes for thoracic myelopathy include bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs, or spine trauma. Spinal tumors are rare but when present, are most common in thoracic levels.

Lumbar myelopathy

Lumbar myelopathy is rare. This form of myelopathy only occurs if you have a low-lying spinal cord, or with high lumbar compression. 

What are the symptoms of myelopathy?

Myelopathy can cause pain in your neck, back, arms, or legs. You may also experience other symptoms, including:

  • Numbness in arms or legs
  • Dysesthesia, or burning/discomfort to touch in arms and legs
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence
  • Difficulty walking
  • Electrical shock sensation (Lhermitte’s Sign)

Your precise symptoms depend on the location of the myelopathy.

How is myelopathy diagnosed?

Your doctor at Neurosurgical Specialists of West County begins by discussing your medical history and asking you to describe your symptoms. They conduct a thorough exam, which includes assessing your strength and reflexes. 

Because myelopathy shares some of the same symptoms as other disorders, your doctor orders a series of tests to confirm your diagnosis, such as:

  • X-ray: to rule out certain causes
  • MRI scan: to scan for areas of spinal narrowing
  • Myelogram: a special CT scan to look at your nerves and spinal cord

These tests may reveal an underlying condition connected to myelopathy.

How is myelopathy treated?

Your treatment plan is tailored to your diagnosis but generally begins with more conservative treatments. For example, for mild forms of cervical myelopathy, your doctor suggests medications to manage your symptoms, along with physical therapy or a neck brace.

Depending on your condition, your doctor discusses surgical options to relieve the compression on your spinal cord and give you relief. These include surgeries to widen your spinal canal or spinal decompression to stabilize your spine.

When a tumor is discovered, surgical options will be considered.

Find out more by calling Neurosurgical Specialists of West County today.