Cervical Myelopathy

(Myelopathy, Cervical)


Cervical myelopathy is damage to the part of the spinal cord that is in the neck. The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull. It extends to the first seven vertebrae.
Cervical Spine
Cervical Spine
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Cervical myelopathy is caused by:

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of cervical myelopathy include:


Symptoms may include:


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on any muscle weakness. A neurological exam may also be done to check your:
Imaging tests evaluate the spine and surrounding structures. These may include:
Other tests may include:


Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. This may involve:


If there is structural pressure on the spinal cord, you may need surgery right away. This is to attempt to avoid lasting injury. There are many different kinds of surgery and procedures to stabilize the neck, such as:
  • Discectomy—to remove part of an intervertebral disc that is putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root
  • Laminectomy—a surgical procedure to remove a portion of a vertebra, called the lamina
  • Fusion of the vertebrae
Cervical Fusion
Sagittal View of a Cervical Fusion
Screws and a plate prevent the vertebrae from putting pressure on the spinal cord.
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Nonsurgical Approaches

Nonsurgical approaches may include:
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Other approaches, such as ultrasound therapy, heat therapy, or electrical stimulation
  • Plasmapheresis


Medications may help to relieve symptoms. Common medications include:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • Corticosteroids
  • Rituximab—This is an antibody used to treat some autoimmune disorders.
Other medications that affect the immune system are also sometimes used.


It is difficult to prevent this condition. Follow these guidelines to prevent accidents and strains:


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

United Spinal Association


Canadian Spinal Research Organization

Health Canada


Cervical myelopathy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Accessed November 20, 2014.

Lumbar spondylolysis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 7, 2014. Accessed November 20, 2014.

Older adult falls. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed November 20, 2014.

Pollard H, Hansen L, Hoskins W. Cervical stenosis in a professional rugby league football player: a case report. Chiropr Osteopat. 2005;13:15.

Young WB. Clinical diagnosis of myelopathy. Semin Ultrasound CT MR. 1994;15(3):250-254

Young WF. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy: a common cause of spinal cord dysfunction in older persons. Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(5):1064-1070.

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