Myelopathy is a condition caused by spinal cord compression or occasionally by brain dysfunction. This condition has been called “the great imitator” because the symptoms are so unusual and widespread that it is commonly misdiagnosed. This problem can be painless at the site of cord compression (usually in the neck) so attention is not brought to the area that the pinching of the cord exists.
The spinal cord is really an extension of the brain down into the spine and has some functions that mute or coordinate the activity of the nerves of the body. When the cord is chronically injured (which is really what myelopathy is) the patient will experience unusual symptoms. It can start with numbness or “pins and needles” in the arms or legs and advance to incoordination of the hands, imbalance of the legs, a lightening type pain in the spine or legs (L’hermitte’s sign), problems with bowel or bladder and difficulty with walking.