Cervical myelopathy is a technical term meaning dysfunction of the spinal cord in the neck.
It is important for patients to recognize the symptoms and signs of cervical myelopathy:
1. Weakness in the arms and especially the hands
2. Decreased dexterity of the hands: trouble buttoning buttons or worsening handwriting as examples.
3. Dropping things, like a fork at dinner
4. Trouble with balance and gait.
5. Electrical pain shooting up and down the back of the neck.
On exam we look for signs of myelopathy such as weak hands, increased reflexes, and even unusual reflexes.
Patients that have these symptoms and signs should have a cervical MRI. Patients with narrowing in the neck around the spinal cord should monitor for development of these symptoms and signs. Patients with symptomatic pressure on the spinal cord are considered for surgery.