Myelopathy is a nerve injury that compresses the spinal cord nerves.

What’s in this section?

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of myelopathy depend of the location and severity of the compression.

Cervical myelopathy is compression of the spinal cord in the neck. Common symptoms include:

  • Neck pain
  • Weakness, numbness or tingling in the arms and hands

Thoracic myelopathy is compression of the spinal cord in the middle of the back. Common symptoms include:

  • Thoracic pain
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Difficulty with coordination and walking

Lumber myelopathy is compression of the spinal cord in the lower back. Common symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness, weakness or tingling in the legs
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Difficulty with balance, coordination or walking


Diagnosis of myelopathy starts with a physical exam and medical history. Other procedures and tests may be needed to diagnose this condition, including x-rays , computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), myelogram or electromyogram .

Treatment options

There are different treatment options depending on the severity of your symptoms and cause of the myelopathy.

  • Brace
  • Physical therapy
  • Medication
  • Minimally invasive discectomy. This is usually performed because of nerve root compression from a cervical disc protrusion, or for an arthritic spur. These are painful problems with no loss of neurological function for some; yet for others, the arthritis or nerve root compression is severe and can cause neck and arm pain, or weak and numb hands. If this applies to you, this surgery is usually recommended to prevent further loss of function. This surgery is an alternative to an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.Ā During surgery, a small incision will be made, and your surgeon will remove bone and ligament to get access to the spinal canal. Using a microscope, the nerve will be identified and the pressure will be taken off by removing disc material. During this surgery, no fusion will be performed. Surgery usually takes 1 – 2 hours and typically you go home the same day.

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