Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy
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What is cervical spondylotic myelopathy?
Your spinal cord is a group of nerves that runs from your head to your lower back. The cervical spine is the part in your neck. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is a compression of the spinal cord in the neck. A compression of the spinal cord means pressure, pinching, or squeezing on it.
CSM often affects adults 50 years or older. It can affect men at an earlier age than women.
What are the symptoms of CSM?
Symptoms of CSM may develop slowly. Some symptoms of CSM include:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Arm pain
- Numbness in the hands or weakness of the arms and legs
- Stiff fingers or legs
- Trouble using your hands or walking
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
What causes cervical spondylotic myelopathy?
In people who have CSM, changes in the bones, disks and ligaments of the spine cause pressure on the spinal cord. Sometimes bony growths called bone spurs add pressure to the spine. Some changes are because of normal aging. Arthritis of the spine and spinal cord trauma can be other causes of CSM.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How is CSM diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and review your symptoms. They will look for changes in your feeling, strength, and reflexes. Your healthcare provider may also do a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. This uses radio waves to take pictures of your spine. The test can confirm if you have spinal cord compression in your neck. It also can show other problems that have similar symptoms to CSM. Your healthcare provider may have to do other tests to confirm the cause of CSM. One of these tests may be a CT scan. They also may refer you to an orthopedist or neurosurgeon.
Can cervical spondylotic myelopathy be prevented or avoided?
You can’t prevent CSM. It’s caused by a natural breakdown of the body as you age.
How is CSM treated?
Mild cases of CSM can be treated with neck braces and physical therapy. These treatments help some symptoms but may not provide long-term relief. Medicines can help some symptoms, such as pain. They don’t help other symptoms, such as weakness or numbness. Severe cases may require surgery. This can help reduce or relieve the compression of your spinal cord.
Living with cervical spondylotic myelopathy
CSM can get worse if left untreated. Talk to your healthcare provider to create a treatment plan to manage your symptoms.