Causes of myelopathy Include natural degeneration from aging

Of all the underlying myelopathy causes, natural aging may be the biggest. Myelopathy is a general term for a disorder of the spinal cord that often refers to nerve compression caused by a degenerative spine condition. Spinal cord compression can be very debilitating, causing pain and mobility problems that can affect relationships, work, sleep and simple household chores.

If this condition is affecting your life, the good news is that there is effective treatment for myelopathy. By learning more about the causes of this condition, you can better work with your doctor to develop a care plan with the best chance of returning you to a healthy, active lifestyle.

How aging causes myelopathy

The spine is placed under a lot of pressure because it supports the upper body while staying flexible enough for the movement that normal activity requires. Spinal flexibility is possible because of the joints and discs that link and cushion the vertebrae.

Loss of water content, declining circulation and other age-related factors cause these parts to wear out and become less able to absorb the stress being placed on them day after day. This degeneration can lead to the following spine conditions:

  • Bulging disc. A disc degenerates to the point where the outside rim is no longer able to contain the inner gelatinous core, causing it to bulge out of its normal perimeter.
  • Herniated disc. This condition occurs when the inner material of a disc pushes out through a crack or tear in the outer layer.
  • Spinal arthritis. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints due to the wearing down of protective cartilage and joint fluid.
  • Bone spurs. Bone spurs are growths of bone that are the body’s natural response to increased bone-on-bone friction often caused by arthritis.

These issues can all narrow the spinal canal, causing the spinal cord to become compressed and resulting in painful symptoms. Myelopathy often causes deep, aching pains and tingling in the arms and legs, as well as difficulty walking and balancing. In some cases, patients may also experience lightheadedness and problems with fine motor control. These symptoms can worsen with the progression of the underlying condition, but they can be treated.

Conservative treatments and surgical options

Medications, physical therapy, braces and epidural steroid injections are all common treatment options for patients with myelopathy. However, if symptoms have not improved or become worse after the period of time recommended by your doctor, surgery may become an option.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery for patients with degenerative conditions such as myelopathy. Our procedures use muscle-sparing techniques, avoiding many of the risks and difficulties of traditional open spine surgery and offering our patients a shorter recovery time comparatively.^

To learn more, contact our dedicated team today for a no-cost MRI or CT scan review to determine if you may be a candidate.