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Cervical Myelopathy: Spinal cord compression

Spinal cord compression sounds scary! It is scary! But take a deep breath. 

Cervical (meaning the neck) myelopathy is the most common spot for compression, although it can happen anywhere along the spinal column. There are a number of reasons you could be experiencing the compression, such as spinal stenosis (which is the narrowing of the canal that the spinal cord runs in), disc herniation,  trauma or infections. 

                                  Warehouse manager working on computer in a large warehouse

Don't confuse myelopathy with myopathy which is nerve damage inside the spinal cord. Where as myelopathy is the resulting symptoms when the spinal cord is compressed. They sound the same but are very different! 

How is it diagnosed?

A good medical history to identify when and how your symptoms began. Plus, what exactly your symptoms are. There are other kinds of neurological issues which present similarly to myelopathy, so ultimately imaging will make the final diagnosis in combination with the medical history. 

Common symptoms

  • Cervical pain
  • Numbness, tingling in the arms and hands 
  • Weakness in arms and hands
  • Difficulty with fine motor tasks like buttons and writing 

                                        Closeup of womans hand writing on paper

Do I need surgery?

Ultimately, it is up to you and your surgeon to determine the need for surgery. However, spinal cord compression is not relieved by nonsurgical treatment. Physical therapy can help manage the symptoms related to the compression until/if surgery is recommended. Additionally, PT is an excellent tool after decompression surgery. 


                           Man using tablet pc against medical interface on xray

How does physical therapy help manage cervical myelopathy?

  • Manual therapy to help increase blood flow, decrease muscle and connective tissue restrictions, and decrease pain. After surgery manual therapy can help scar tissue mobility and muscle guarding. 
  • Posture education and movement strategies to help make activities of daily living easier
  • Strengthening of arm and spine muscles to reduce strain on the neck and provide stabilization. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of cervical myelopathy and are ready for a change, contact our physical therapy office today!