What is Cervical Spinal Stenosis with Myelopathy?

The spine is made up of a series of vertebrae and shock-absorbing discs that protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord rests in the canal formed by the vertebrae known as the stenosis. Cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy is a narrowing of the spinal canal; this narrowing creates a compression on the spinal cord. This degenerative condition is common in people age 50 or older who have cervical spondylosis, or neck arthritis. As a neck specialist, Dr. Braxton offers non-surgical and surgical treatment options for patients suffering from cervical stenosis and myelopathy. His treatments focus on relieving pain and returning patients back to the activities they love.

What Causes Cervical Spinal Stenosis?

The most common cause of cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy is arthritis. Over time, cervical discs lose hydration, become flatter, or herniate. The facet joints also degenerate over time and become enlarged with changes from arthritis. The result of both types of degeneration is a narrowing of the spinal canal leading to cervical spinal stenosis. As a result of neck arthritis, bone spurs can develop decreasing spinal canal space. Trauma to the cervical spine can also cause cervical spinal stenosis.

How Serious is Cervical Myelopathy?

Cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy can become serious. If left untreated, the spinal cord can become more compressed and severe symptoms such as paralysis in one or more limbs or other bodily functions shutting down can result. Initial symptoms include changes in gross and fine motor skills of arms and hands, balance issues, or numbness and weakness in extremities. Dr. Braxton can provide advanced diagnostic and treatment care for patients who are experiencing symptoms of cervical myelopathy.

What Does Cervical Spinal Stenosis Feel Like?

Symptoms associated with cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy include:

  • Changes in balance or gait
  • Severe to mild neck pain
  • Abnormal motor function, especially in the hands
  • Shoulder and extremity weakness, numbness, or pain

The progression of cervical stenosis and myelopathy is unpredictable. Degeneration can happen slowly or more rapidly. Typically, symptoms become more pronounced over time. Neurological symptoms include:

  • Feeling heavy legs resulting in slower walking
  • Inability to grip
  • Loss of fine motor skills such as writing, or buttoning a garment
  • Neck stiffness and popping sound
  • Sensation of electric pulse with neck motion

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How is Cervical Myelopathy Diagnosed?

Dr. Braxton will conduct a comprehensive diagnosis for cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy. He will begin by collecting a medical history and performing a physical exam; he will also perform a neurological exam which will check for fine and gross motor movements, reflexes, gait, balance and posture abnormalities. Diagnostic imaging may be use including X-ray, MRI scan, CT scan and EMG. An electrical study can help identify the tracking of the nerve signals indicating areas of compromise in the spinal cord. A nerve study may also be helpful for an the accurate diagnosis of cervical stenosis and myelopathy.

Does Cervical Myelopathy Require Surgery?

The non-surgical treatments Dr. Braxton may use for minor cervical spinal stenosis include:

  • Modification of activity

  • Modification of neck positioning in movement during sleep

  • Physical therapy targeting the neck

  • Medication including anti-inflammatories, pain relief, and neuropathic

Even the most minor case of cervical stenosis and myelopathy has a potential for great risk. Dr. Braxton works very closely with patients to monitor symptoms and ensure that spinal stenosis with myelopathy does not accelerate to a serious state. To ensure the condition does not progress, cervical stenosis and myelopathy is best treated with advanced surgical procedure.

How is Cervical Spinal Stenosis Treated?

The goal of surgery is to relieve compression and prevent future compression of the spinal cord. There are a number of advanced surgical procedures Dr. Braxton’s uses for cervical spinal stenosis. A thorough preoperative work-up will help determine the right course of treatment for each patient.

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