Do I have "Cervical Myelopathy?"

Cervical myelopathy, or more specifically called "cervical spondylotic myelopathy" (CSM), is the most common spinal cord disorder in those over age 55. A spine under repeated stress often undergoes degenerative processes.  This abnormal normal wear and tear, can cause a narrowing of the space through which the spinal cord passes, compressing the nerves. OUCH!  Sound like you have CSM or would like to avoid it?  We don't blame ya...

Longmont Chiropractor Dr Jay Breitlow refers to this narrowing of the spinal cord as "Subluxation".  If left untreated this disorder (both subluxation and it's chronic cousin CSM) can cause pain and possible disability.  As time goes by cervical disc degeneration, (often common, but still not normal, in those over age 40) creates a narrowing of the space between the vertebrae when the disc either shrinks or bulges. Unfortunately, this degeneration also has a tendency to accelerate if not properly addressed.

This is because more pressure is put on the spinal joints as the disc degenerates, which in turn tends to cause further degeneration.  Injury or repeated trauma to the cervical spine - typically related to auto accidents or rough contact sports like footbal - can also cause subluxation or CSM.

Symptoms of both subluxation and cervical myelopathy include pain and stiffness in the neck, tingling or numbness (particularly in the arms and legs), weakness (such as having trouble lifting things or frequently dropping objects), difficulty walking, and problems with coordination. For example, patients suffering from CSM may have trouble buttoning their clothing or feeding themselves.

A diagnosis of CSM - and the precursor subluxation - can be confirmed by us taking x-ray in our Longmont Chiropractic offic.  We can then use this get an idea of what is going on in spinal canal.  We can also see any bone spurs, and the size of the opening through which the spinal cord passes - called the IVF (intra-vertebral foramen).

If subluxation or CSM is not treated, it will cause a steady degeneration about 50% of the time. So what can you do in the meantime before you get into the office?

  • Soft collars to support the neck and reduce movement so that the soft tissues supporting the neck are allowed to rest (though this should only be used in the short term, as long-term use can cause a weakening of the neck muscles)
  • Exercise to strengthen the muscles supporting the neck
  • Steroid injections to decrease pain and swelling (although these only result in temporary relief)
  • More severe cases of spinal myelopathy can require surgical treatment, which may include laminectomy (removing part of the vertebra), discectomy (removing part of the intervertebral disc) or spinal fusion. BUT THIS IS THE VERY VERY VERY LAST OPTION!!

If you have CSM, your chiropractors Dr Jay Breitlow and Dr Christina Breitlow can help you understand your condition, the range of options available and the course of treatment that may be best for you. Give us a call at 303-776-6767 to discuss what chiropractic options there might be for you!