Cervical Myelopathy



This problem may be caused by:

  • A slipped disc
  • Worn cervical discs
  • Tumors inside the spinal cord or pushing on the spinal cord
  • Bone spurs
  • Dislocation or fracture of the neck
  • Traumatic injury to the cervical spine
  • Problems with the immune system, such as transverse myelitis, multiple sclerosis , or neuromyelitis optica

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Infections
  • Poor blood supply
  • Problems with the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis , multiple sclerosis, or neuromyelitis optica
  • Vascular disease
  • Degenerative disease
  • A history of bone or back problems
  • History of cancer involving the bones
  • Being born with a narrow spinal canal
  • Jobs or sports that involve regular stretching and straining of spine



Problems may be:

  • Pain in the shoulder and arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms and legs
  • Trouble walking or balancing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Problems flexing the neck
  • Lightheadedness
  • Problems with fine motor control, such as buttoning a shirt
  • Unusual movements
  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • Weakness below the waist or in all four limbs


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on any muscle weakness. A neurological exam may also be done.

Images may be taken of the spine. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • MRI scan
  • CT myelogram

Other tests may be:

  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Somatosensory evoked potentials
  • Visual evoked potential test (VEP)



The cause will need to be treated. Symptoms may be managed with:

  • Physical therapy to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion
  • Occupational therapy to help with daily tasks and self-care
  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling

Some people may need surgery to ease pressure on the spinal cord. Choices are:

  • Discectomy —to remove part of an intervertebral disc that is putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root
  • Laminectomy —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.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.