Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is a condition of the neck, which occurs when the spinal cord is compressed because of the wear-and-tear changes to the spine as we age. This condition is fairly common in patients over the age of 50.
Since the spinal cord carries nerve impulses to different regions of the body, CSM patients may experience a wide variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms – weakness or numbness in the hands and arms, loss of balance and coordination and neck pain – can all result when these nerve impulses are interrupted.
Changes to the spine are fairly common as we age. IN fact, nearly half of all middle-aged people and older have worn out disks that don’t cause painful symptoms. Doctors are not sure why some patients develop symptoms and some do not.
Myelopathy can also develop because of other conditions that cause spinal cord compression. These conditions aren’t related to disk degeneration; however, they may result in the same symptoms as CSM. Symptoms related to rheumatoid arthritis can cause the upper vertebrae to slide forward on top of the lower vertebra, reducing the amount of space available for the spinal cord. You may also experience CSM-like symptoms after an injury to the neck – such as from a car accident, sports or a fall – which can hyperextend the neck and affect the muscles and ligaments meant to support the vertebrae.
Symptoms of Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy typically develop slowly and progress over time. Patients with CSM may experience tingling or numbness in the arms, fingers or hands; weakness in the muscles or difficulty grasping or holding items; imbalance or coordination problems making it difficult to walk without tripping or falling; loss of fine motor skills; and/or pain or stiffness in the neck.
Your doctor will usually treat CSM non-surgically in order to decrease your pain level and improve your ability to accomplish day-to-day tasks. These methods include wearing a soft cervical collar, physical therapy, and in some cases medication. Some people may want to turn to chiropractic manipulation for neck and back pain, but manipulation should not be used for spinal cord compression.