Myelopathy FAQ — frequently asked questions

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with myelopathy, this FAQ can provide you with answers to some of your most pressing questions.

Q: What is myelopathy?

A: Myelopathy is a term that refers to chronic compression of the spinal cord. It often occurs in the cervical (upper) region of the spine. Myelopathy is not often associated with the lumbar (lower) area of the spine because the spinal cord ends approximately at the point where the lumbar spine begins. Myelopathy can develop suddenly or get worse over an extended period of time.

Q: What causes myelopathy?

A: Myelopathy can be triggered by several different issues. The most common causes include bone spurs and herniated discs. A large number of cases are also caused by inflammatory or autoimmune disorders, tumors and benign cysts.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: When the spinal cord becomes compressed, patients may notice a number of uncomfortable symptoms. If the myelopathy occurs in the cervical (upper) spine, symptoms include pain that radiates through the arms and legs, a feeling of heaviness in the legs, difficulty walking at a fast pace, difficulty with fine motor skills in the hands, and in rare cases, urinary urgency.

Q: What are the treatment options?

A: Treatment typically depends on the underlying cause of the compression. Some patients are able to control their symptoms through conservative methods, such as periods of rest, hot and cold compression, medications and physical therapy. Other patients may require an operation to decompress their spinal cord.

Q: Will I need surgery?

A: Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for a surgical consultation if a full course of conservative treatment doesn’t bring the relief you need for normal, comfortable activity. Traditional open spine surgery to treat myelopathy is seen as a highly invasive form of treatment due to the large incision, overnight hospitalization and long, sometimes painful, recovery period involved.

At Laser Spine Institute, we can help you determine if surgery is an appropriate treatment for your myelopathy. We perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is an alternative to traditional open spine procedures, offering our patients less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time in comparison.^

For a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our dedicated team of Patient Empowerment Consultants today.