Despite a proper diet and exercise routine, you can’t escape the effects of aging, especially when it comes to spinal health. One of the more common conditions is spinal cord compression or cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). This condition occurs as a result of the natural narrowing of the spinal canal. While some narrowing is normal, increased narrowing may compress the spinal cord causing a serious threat to general health.
Older Americans in particular are likely candidates for CSM, as the symptoms usually appear after the age of 50. Persons who have experienced spinal injuries at an earlier age may also develop spinal cord compression. Fortunately, the back doctors and spine surgeons at West Michigan Spine Center can treat CSM and its symptoms.
Causes of Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy
CSM can cause serious neck pain, often because of problems with nearby soft tissues. The normal effects of aging can wear down the muscles, ligaments, and nerves, along with the spine’s bones and joints resulting in neck pain and pain in the upper back, shoulders, or arms. The leading causes of spinal cord compression include:
- Cervical Disk Degeneration – Between each vertebra are flat, round, intervertebral disks which enable spinal flexibility, strength, and support. These disks have a high water content that decreases around the age of 40 and older. This shrinks the space between vertebrae which in turn wears down the disks and causes spinal cord compression.
- Inflammatory Diseases – Certain inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, target neck joints, especially in the upper neck, resulting in severe pain and stiffness in the neck. This can also compress the spinal cord.
- Injury – Although our necks are flexible, they are also very fragile. Accidents and injuries such as car accidents, falls, and contact sports, can injure the neck and cause spinal cord compression. The most severe neck injuries are neck fractures or dislocations. These injuries may compress the spinal cord and can even result in paralysis.
Symptoms of Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy
Patients with spinal cord compression typically notice a steady progression of their disease with symptoms gradually evolving over the years. However, approximately 5% to 20% of patients will experience rapid progression of CSM with the sudden onset of symptoms.
In most instances, once spinal cord compression develops, its symptoms tend to continue. The most common symptoms include: neck pain and/or stiffness, tingling, and numbness. Patients with spinal cord compression may also experience weakness and drop things, or have trouble lifting objects. They may also face a loss of balance, difficulty walking, and a wide-based gait. Patients may also experience problems with coordination.