Symptoms & Diagnosis

Cervical myelopathy can manifest in various ways, and recognizing its symptoms is crucial for early detection and timely intervention. While the specific symptoms experienced may vary from person to person, there are some common signs that may indicate the presence of cervical myelopathy.

One of the hallmark symptoms of cervical myelopathy is the gradual development of weakness or numbness in the upper extremities. You may notice that tasks requiring fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt or manipulating small objects, become increasingly difficult. Grip strength may weaken, and coordination may be compromised, making it challenging to perform everyday activities.

In addition to motor changes, individuals with cervical myelopathy may experience sensory disturbances. This can manifest as tingling or a “pins and needles” sensation in the arms, hands, or fingers. Areas of the skin may become hypersensitive or develop patches of numbness.

Changes in gait and balance are also common. You may find yourself stumbling more frequently or feeling unsteady on your feet. This can be attributed to the disruption of nerve signals that control muscle movement and coordination.

As cervical myelopathy progresses, symptoms can extend beyond the upper extremities. Some individuals may experience issues with bladder or bowel function, such as urgency, hesitancy, or even incontinence. These symptoms arise from the disruption of nerve signals responsible for controlling these bodily functions.

Diagnosing cervical myelopathy involves a comprehensive evaluation that takes into account medical history, clinical symptoms, and diagnostic tests. Your healthcare provider will begin by conducting a thorough physical examination, assessing motor strength, sensation, reflexes, and coordination. They may also evaluate your gait and balance to identify any abnormalities.

In addition to the physical examination, your doctor may order imaging studies to visualize the cervical spine and identify the underlying cause of compression. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the gold standard for diagnosing cervical myelopathy. It provides detailed images of the spinal cord, vertebrae, and surrounding structures, allowing for a comprehensive assessment of the condition.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend additional tests, such as electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies (NCS). These tests can help assess the function of the nerves and muscles, providing valuable information about the extent of nerve involvement.

Receiving a timely and accurate diagnosis is crucial for appropriate treatment planning. If you are experiencing symptoms suggestive of cervical myelopathy, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in spine or neurologic disorders. They will conduct a thorough evaluation, guide you through the diagnostic process, and help develop an individualized treatment plan.

Remember, early detection of cervical myelopathy can lead to more effective interventions and improved long-term outcomes. By being aware of the common symptoms and seeking medical attention promptly, you can take an active role in managing your health and well-being.