What Is Lumbar Myelopathy?
Lumbar myelopathy is a condition that results from severe compression of your spinal cord in the lumbar region of your back, which is considered the L1 to L5 vertebrae. The lumbar spine extends from the bottom of your ribcage to the bottom of your spine, where it joins your pelvis. The spinal cord is your central nerve, enclosed and protected inside the vertebral bones that compose your spine.
Myelopathy refers to the symptoms that occur when part of the spinal cord becomes pinched or compressed. Although easy to confuse, myelopathy has nothing to do with myopathy, which is a muscular disorder. Myelopathy produces back pain and other symptoms.
You can try non-invasive therapies to temporarily ease the pain and discomfort caused by lumbar myelopathy, but only surgery can relieve the pressure on the nerves. Nerve compression worsens over time, so early intervention with effective lumbar myelopathy treatment.
Surgical options provided by Dr. Branko Skovrlj at NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute in Edison, New Jersey is the best way to prevent future lower back problems.
What Causes Lumbar Myelopathy?
The condition usually develops slowly, resulting from a gradual deterioration of your spine, a condition called spondylosis. But it can also appear suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, or it can arise from a spinal birth defect. Other factors that contribute to lumbar myelopathy include:
- While lumbar myelopathy can happen at any age, it becomes more prevalent as you age. Your muscles gradually lose the ability to keep your core strong enough to support your spinal column properly.
- If you’re sedentary, you risk placing too much unsupported pressure on your lower back, and that can result in a pinched nerve. Excess weight is another factor that contributes to nerve compression in your back.
- Spinal stenosis. This degenerative spinal condition results in a narrower space within the vertebral bones, which squeezes your spinal cord.
- Lumbar Disc Herniation. A herniated disc can put significant pressure on your spinal cord or on a nerve root.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This auto-immune disorder causes your vertebrae to decay over time, which eventually pinches and compresses your spinal cord.
- Spinal injury. Acute lumbar myelopathy can develop suddenly after an injury, infection or radiation therapy.
- Other problems. Cysts, tumors, hernias or cancer can also cause spinal compression.
What Are the Symptoms for Lumbar Myelopathy?
Whether from an injury or gradual compression, lumbar myelopathy causes pain and a loss of sensation or functionality at or beneath the compression point. Some of the most common symptoms associated with the condition include:
- Leg or lower back pain
- Numbness, tingling and weakness in your lower back, hips and legs
- Difficulty walking or performing other basic motor skills
- Abnormal or increased reflex reactions in your hands and feet
- Lack of bowel or urinary control
- Balance problems
The diagnosis of lumbar myelopathy begins with your Edison, NJ doctor performing a thorough physical exam and reviewing your medical history. Afterward, he may conduct a few tests to learn more about your condition, such as:
- X-rays to rule out other issues closely related to lumbar nerve problems, such as cervical myelopathy and thoracic myelopathy
- An MRI scan to identify stenosis
- Myelography, which is a real-time x-ray for spotting spine abnormalities
- Electromyogram to test nerve reflexes
What Are My Options for Lumbar Myelopathy Treatment?
Your spine specialist has several options for minimally invasive lumbar myelopathy treatment, Non-surgical approaches like pain medication, physical therapy and braces help alleviate some of your pain, but can only treat the symptoms and provide temporary relief.
Surgery is the only way to relieve the spinal cord’s compression. Surgical lumbar myelopathy treatment options depend on the severity of your case and the cause of the compression. Some of the most common surgical treatments include:
- Lumbar decompression. A standard procedure for lumbar myelopathy, lumbar decompression surgery relieves the pressure on your spinal cord to counter a wide range of causes.
- Laminectomy. Less invasive than a laminoplasty, spine surgeons use laminectomies to fix problems associated with spinal stenosis.
- Minimally invasive laminectomy. Patients tend to recover more quickly from this less invasive technique. During a minimally invasive laminectomy, your New Jersey spine surgeon removes a small portion of the lamina that’s compressing your spinal cord.
- Spinal fusion. Performed either from the front or back, the fusion of two vertebrae may slightly limit your flexibility, but it greatly reduces the nerve compression and pain long-term.