Cervical Myelopathy



Cervical myelopathy may be caused by:

  • A slipped disc
  • Worn cervical discs
  • Tumors in 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(MS), or neuromyelitis optica

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of cervical myelopathy are:

  • Infections
  • Poor blood supply
  • Problems with the immune system, such as rheumatoid arthritis, MS, or neuromyelitis optica
  • Vascular 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



A person with cervical myelopathy may have:

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


The doctor will ask about 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 the doctor may want done are:



The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. The cause of the cervical myelopathy will need to be treated. Symptoms may be managed with:

  • Physical therapy to help with 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. The doctor may advise:

  • Discectomy—to remove part of a disc that is putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root
  • Laminectomy—to remove a part 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 ways to prevent cervical myelopathy.

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.