Myelopathy is when the spinal cord is damaged and symptoms develop. The damage to the spinal cord is typically from trauma or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). Spinal stenosis that is severe or chronic may cause myelopathy. Damage to the spinal cord may be irreversible. Early symptoms of myelopathy are imbalance with standing and walking, and difficulty with fine motor movements of the hands. Patients may experience difficulty picking up fine objects like coins or pieces of paper. They may have difficulty holding onto things or dropping things unexpectedly. Some people report trouble with buttoning buttons or worsening of their hand writing. In extreme cases, there may be lose of function of the bowel or bladder. Patients may develop pain, weakness, clumsiness, spasticity and hyperreflexia.
Because myelopathy is potentially irreversible it is important to consult your spine specialist to evaluate whether or not you indeed have signs or symptoms of myelopathy. Treatments can range from observation of the symptoms to make sure they don’t progress or worsen to surgical decompression of the spinal cord. Depending on the location of the compression you may or may not be a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure.