Myelopathy causes include genetic factors

Your genetics are one of the contributing factors that can potentially lead to myelopathy, a condition that develops due to the upper spinal cord becoming compressed. While researchers are still trying to discover the extent to which hereditary factors are linked to this condition, it is generally agreed that having a family history of myelopathy can put you at a higher risk for it as well. Some people are also born with a naturally narrow spinal canal, making them more prone to degenerative spinal stenosis (narrowing) that can compress the spinal cord.

Myelopathy and spinal stenosis

The spinal canal is important because it protects the spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the body. The problem is that the spinal canal is a tightly packed construction of bones, joints and soft tissue, and even slight injury to the spinal anatomy can constrict the already narrow spinal canal. When the canal space becomes narrowed — called spinal canal stenosis — the spinal cord can become constricted. This can result in a number of different symptoms, depending on the location and severity of the issue. These symptoms are known as myelopathy and include:

  • Chronic arm pain
  • Shooting, electrical pain in the extremities
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Reduced motor skills
  • Walking difficulties
  • Sensations of leg heaviness

Spinal stenosis often occurs in the neck because the cervical (upper) spine supports the weight of the head and provides movement for the upper body. Over time, these stresses cause degeneration of the spinal column, causing the joints to become arthritic, the discs to weaken, the nearby muscle tissue to atrophy and other degenerative changes to take place, making a person more at risk for cervical spinal stenosis. Since the spinal cord begins in the neck, any narrowing in that part of the spine can lead to spinal cord compression and the potential for myelopathy. This risk is higher if a person comes from a family with a history of neck problems or has a naturally narrow spinal canal.

Learn more about myelopathy and your treatment options

For more information about the role genetic factors can have in developing myelopathy from a degenerative spine condition, speak with your primary care doctor today. He or she can help you review your family’s medical history to discover if you may have a predisposition to this condition.

If you have myelopathy and are considering surgery because you have exhausted conservative treatment options, contact our dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^

We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.