The bones protect the spinal canal that runs through the vertebra and carries the spinal cord. The spinal cord contains nerves that give strength and sensation to the arms and legs and provide bowel and bladder control. Numerous connections (discs, joints, ligaments and muscles) between the cervical vertebrae provide support, provide stability and allow motion. Cervical myelopathy is a condition where the spinal cord in the neck gets compressed. This is usually caused by degenerative changes in the disc and the facet joints, but can also be caused rarely by tumours.
Patients with cervical myelopathy have pain in their neck or arms. They may complain of tingling, numbness and heaviness in upper and lower limbs. Arm symptoms may include weakness, stiffness or clumsiness in the hands, such as being unable to button a shirt, turn a doorknob or open a jar. Leg symptoms may include weakness, difficulty walking, loss of balance, frequent falls or the need to use a cane or walker as the disease progresses. Urinary urgency is also common. In late cases bladder and bowel incontinence/retention can occur. Symptom progression may also vary. You may experience a slow, steady decline or progress to a certain point and become stable, or your symptoms may progress rapidly. The first signs are often brisk knee and ankle reflexes. These may only be detected in a neurological exam. Early detection is important to determine treatment which might help slow symptom progression.
Treatment options vary. Where the cord compression is marked or the symptoms severe or progressive, surgery is usually advised. This can take the form of an anterior cervical decompression and fusion/disc replacement, or posterior laminectomy and stabilisation. Mild cases can be treated with physiotherapy, expectant watching, or local injections for pain relief. However, one must take the doctor's opinion as early as possible as the conditioned way worse and in severe stages may lead to irreversible damage.
How to prevent cervical myelopathy
We at Shanta spine institute believes in prevention is better than cure, so we keep our main emphasis on prevention of the disease more than the treatment. The main cause of cervical myelopathy is aging process and unhealthy lifestyle. So we aim to prevent the disease by certain lifestyle modifications which had to be followed regularly. This includes daily 1 hour of exercise, healthy diet which includes lots of fruits and salads, 4-5 litres of water daily and to maintain weight which is normal according to your height and age. The exercise program like swimming, yoga, walking jogging etc helps to develop core strength and allows us to maintain strength and flexibility of the spine.
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- Vivek Madhukar Puradbhat
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