Myelopathy

A pinched nerve in your neck or back can cause pain like no other, keeping you from working, having fun or being social. But with Hoag on your side, you have the team, the technology and the patient-first approach you need to heal and get back to doing what you love. The Hoag Spine Institute includes pain management and acute rehabilitation specialists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians and board-certified neurosurgeons. Utilizing innovative diagnostic technology and progressive treatment options, they're here to ensure the best possible outcome for you. You don't have to hurt anymore. Trust Hoag to help you heal.

Need Next-Gen Myelopathy Treatment? Orange County Turns to Hoag for Advanced Spine Care

Do you need diagnosis and treatment for myelopathy in Orange County? We invite you to discover the unparalleled standard of care at the Hoag Spine Institute.

Our approach begins with a detailed myelopathy diagnosis, informed by a comprehensive physical examination by a member of our world-class team of spine experts and state-of-the-art diagnostic tools. Our focus is on providing personalized care and an individualized treatment path for every patient, so we offer a wide range of advanced surgical and nonsurgical treatment options.

Our treatments are designed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord with precision, for the best possible outcomes. For those seeking a conservative approach, our nonsurgical treatment options focus on rehabilitation, restoring range of motion and pain management, all geared toward your comfort and recovery.

Every day at the Hoag Spine Institute, we’re transforming the lives of those with chronic back pain through expert care, advanced technology and a patient-centered approach. Trust the Hoag Spine Institute to help you return to the activities you love with confidence. Contact us today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form.

What is Myelopathy?

Myelopathy refers to symptoms that can occur due to the severe compression of the spinal cord.

When the spinal cord is compressed (squeezed) due to an outside force putting pressure on the spinal nerves, it can cause a variety of symptoms, including chronic pain, numbness or difficulty with moving certain parts of the body.

Compression of the spinal cord can stem from a variety of chronic, or long-term, conditions, including spinal stenosis, disc degeneration or bone spurs.

However, people can also experience acute myelopathy, meaning that symptoms come on quickly, usually due to the effects of a spinal injury. Whether chronic or acute, myelopathy can severely impact a patient’s quality of life, especially if the condition is left untreated.

The Spinal Cord and the Spinal Canal

A full understanding of myelopathy requires an understanding of both the spinal cord and the spinal canal and their function.

The human spine, also known as the backbone, is a column of bone which provides structure to the human body while promoting upright posture.

The spinal column is made up of 33 pieces of hollow bone known collectively as the vertebrae. Between the vertebrae are a series of gel-filled soft tissues known as the intervertebral discs. The spinal discs are sandwiched between the vertebrae, holding them together while also allowing the spine to bend and twist.

Running through the vertebrae and spinal discs is a tunnel-like space known as the spinal canal. Threaded through the spinal canal is a bundle of nerve tissue called the spinal cord, which extends from the brain down through the spine. This highway of nerve tissue is what the brain uses to send commands to the rest of the body, coordinating reflexes and sensory data while allowing for fine motor skills.

What Causes Myelopathy?

Myelopathy occurs when the spinal canal becomes abnormally narrowed to the point the spinal cord is compressed, or squeezed.

This is distinct from a separate condition known as radiculopathy, which occurs when the spinal nerve roots are compressed. The nerve roots are segments of nerve which emerge from the spinal cord and then branch away into nerves serving other parts of the body. Read more about radiculopathy here.

Myelopathy can be acute, meaning that symptoms occur suddenly, or chronic, meaning that the condition occurs progressively over a longer period of time.

Various conditions that can cause the spinal cord compression that’s characteristic of myelopathy include:

  • Degenerative spinal conditions: Chronic conditions which cause the vertebrae or spinal discs to degrade over time.
  • Disc herniation: Herniated discs occur when a spinal disc suffers damage that causes it to bulge or slips out of place. That can put pressure on the spinal cord, causing myelopathy.
  • Certain autoimmune disorders: Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy tissues after mistaking them for harmful invaders. Examples of autoimmune disorders include certain types of degenerative arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Spinal deformity: Some spinal deformities are congenital, meaning that are due to the way the spine developed in the womb. They exist from birth. Other types of spinal deformity can develop in adults, or due to spinal damage. Visit here to read more about spinal deformity from Hoag.
  • Abnormal growths: Spinal bone spurs are abnormal bony projections that can develop along the edges of the vertebrae, potentially causing spinal cord compression. Other types of abnormal growths that can cause myelopathy include cancerous or noncancerous tumors, cysts or hematomas.
  • Spinal injury: Catastrophic injuries to the spine can sometimes cause a spinal cord compression.
  • Infection: Certain microorganisms such as bacteria or a virus can attack the spine, causing inflammation that can put pressure on the spinal cord.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and ALS can cause nerve dysfunction within the spinal cord, potentially leading to myelopathy.

What are the Different Types of Myelopathy?

The type of myelopathy a person has depends on the location of the compression point along the spine. There are three main types of myelopathy, including:

Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy occurs within the cervical spine, or neck. Cervical myelopathy affects the area of the spinal cord which receives sensory information from the arms, hands and fingers. As such, this type of the condition is often associated with a tingling or numbness in these areas, as well as chronic, severe neck pain.

Thoracic Myelopathy

Thoracic myelopathy affects the middle and upper back. In these cases, the compression point occurs in the part of the spinal cord that extends from the base of the neck to the bottom of the ribcage (the thoracic spine). This type of myelopathy can cause chest or abdominal pain which radiates around from the back to the front of the body.

Lumbar Myelopathy

Lumbar myelopathy affects the lower part of the spine, known as the lumbar spine, which extends from the bottom of the rib cage to the pelvis. While this type of spinal cord compression is rare compared to thoracic and cervical myelopathy, it can still be very painful, and may include numbness that extends to the legs and feet.

What are the Symptoms of Myelopathy?

The symptoms of myelopathy can vary based on the region of the spine affected. Myelopathy symptoms may include:

  • Shooting pain in the back or neck.
  • Numbness or a lack of sensation in the extremities.
  • Sudden, unexplained issues with physical coordination or balance.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control, which may be a sign of a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome.
  • Decreased reflexes and fine motor skills.

Can Myelopathy Cause any Serious Complications?

Cases of advanced myelopathy, especially if the condition has been left untreated for a prolonged period of time, can eventually result in nerve damage.

Nerve damage is often irreversible, and can make it more difficult for the body to coordinate essential movements. It can also cause spinal deformity, permanent numbness and chronic pain.

Who is Most at Risk to Develop Myelopathy?

Medical conditions and lifestyle factors that can put a person at greater risk of myelopathy include:

  • Having a personal medical history of degenerative spinal conditions, spine deformity, spinal tumors or spinal infections.
  • Being obese, which can put added pressure on the spine and spinal discs.
  • Smoking tobacco, as smoking can decrease blood flow and make it harder for spinal damage to heal.
  • Having conditions that predispose a person to nerve dysfunction, including rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Conditions that increase a person’s risk of spinal injury, including conditions like disc degeneration, spondylolisthesis and diabetes, which can cause a unique form of the condition called diabetic myelopathy.
  • Those with highly-physical jobs or pursuits like weightlifting or full-contact sports, which can increase the risk of experiencing issues like herniated discs, spinal fractures and degenerative disc disease that can lead to myelopathy.

Are There any Ways to Reduce My Risk of Developing Myelopathy?

Reducing the risk of myelopathy involves managing underlying conditions that could lead to spinal degeneration or compression of the spinal cord. Avoiding conditions and activities that put added strain on the spinal column can also be beneficial.

Ways to reduce your risk of developing myelopathy may include:

  • Practice safe lifting habits: Keeping a tight core, bending at the knees and using the legs to lift can minimize the risk of a herniated disc or spinal fracture.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: This can minimize the daily strain placed upon the back and spinal discs.
  • Get regular physical activity: Staying active, especially through exercises focused on strengthening the body’s core, can tighten the muscles around the spinal column, providing strength and support while reducing the risk of myelopathy.
  • Follow your physician’s instructions: If you experience back pain while lifting, bending or twisting, stop what you’re doing immediately. If the pain persists more than a few days, see your doctor for an evaluation and then follow their instructions exactly, including attending any required physical therapy appointments. Doing so can help you avoid damage that can turn into myelopathy.

Need Treatment for Myelopathy in Orange County? The Hoag Spine Institute Has What You Need to Come Back Strong

At the Hoag Spine Institute, we understand the challenges faced by those suffering from serious spinal issues, including myelopathy.

Our comprehensive team of spine specialists is committed to using the most advanced available technology to reach an accurate diagnosis, ensuring your treatment path is tailored to your unique needs. From there, we’re dedicated to using conservative approaches first, only turning to our expertise in advanced, minimally-invasive spine surgical treatment for myelopathy as a last resort. Our goal: to provide lasting relief from the symptoms that are holding you back.

Do you need myelopathy treatment in Fountain Valley, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Corona Del Mar or other communities across Orange County? Then you deserve Southern California’s most patient-focused care, driven by a world-class team of physicians that is committed to excellence in everything they do.

So don’t wait. Contact the Hoag Spine Institute today, and find relief from the pain and uncertainty of myelopathy.  To learn more or to schedule a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation with a Hoag spine care specialist, please contact us today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form.

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