There are several conditions that can affect the cervical spine (the portion of the spinal column in your neck). Cervical myelopathy, radiculopathy, and stenosis are among the most common.

Cervical myelopathy refers to a loss of function in the upper and lower extremities caused by compression of the spinal cord within the neck.

Cervical radiculopathy refers to pain and a loss of function in a specific region within the arm caused by compression of a spinal nerve root in the neck.

Cervical stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal due to a variety of factors, including disc degeneration, bone spur formation, and disc herniation. Cervical stenosis can lead to either myelopathy or radiculopathy, depending on the location and severity of the stenosis.

What are the symptoms?

With cervical myelopathy, patients typically complain of hand clumsiness and difficulty with walking. They may drop objects more often, have difficulty buttoning shirts, and notice worsening handwriting. Gait difficulties may include unsteadiness, the need to hold onto objects to prevent falling, and increased frequency of falls.

Cervical radiculopathy will manifest itself as pain traveling from the neck into a specific region of either arm, forearm or hand. In many cases, this will be accompanied by numbness in a similar distribution or weakness in specific muscles in the arm, forearm, or hand.

What are the long-term effects of these conditions?

The long-term effects of cervical radiculopathy depend in large part on how long symptoms have been present. In most patients with early symptoms, the pain, numbness, and weakness will resolve over a 6-12 week period.

In patients who have had symptoms for a longer period of time, the prognosis is less clear. Some patients in this group will eventually get complete relief with limited treatment such as activity modification, heat, ice, physical therapy or over-the-counter medications. Approximately one-third of these patients will have some lingering degree of symptoms that they may be able to cope with. A small percentage will have symptoms that are unbearable and may need further, more aggressive treatment.

The long term effects of cervical myelopathy are somewhat more variable. The consensus is that patients with myelopathy will have progression of symptoms. What is not known is when the symptoms will progress, how much they will progress, or how rapidly they will progress. Approximately 75% of patients will have gradual deterioration in their function with stable periods in between the episodes of deterioration. Twenty percent will have slow, steady deterioration, and another 5% will have rapid deterioration.

What treatments are available for these conditions?

After diagnosing the root cause of the patient’s symptoms, our specialists will recommend a treatment plan that best fits the patient’s condition, needs, and lifestyle.

Treatments for both cervical radiculopathy and cervical myelopathy may include:

  • Wearing a cervical collar around the neck to limit neck motion and allow the muscles to relax
  • Physical therapy to strengthen the neck muscles
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroid injections

If nonsurgical treatments do not provide sufficient relief, surgical procedures may be considered. For cervical radiculopathy, that may include anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and artificial disc replacement (ADR), among other potential cervical spine procedures. Surgery for cervical myelopathy may include cervical laminoplasty or ACDF. Our surgeons will recommend the appropriate procedure based on the patient’s needs and condition.

What does recovery look like?

Recovery looks a bit different for each patient. Ultimately, it will depend on the root cause of the issue, the severity of the condition, and whether or not surgery is needed.

Because treatment plans are tailored to each patient, so is the recovery plan. Our goal is to provide each patient with the information and tools they need for a smooth recovery, whether they have surgery or not.

Cervical stenosis, myelopathy, & radiculopathy treatment in Austin, TX

At Austin Spine, we offer a variety of surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for cervical stenosis, myelopathy, and radiculopathy. If you would like to learn more about how Austin Spine can help or schedule an evaluation with one of our specialists, please contact our office at (512) 347-7463.