Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

My brother is going to have surgery on his neck. He says he has something called cervical spondylotic myelopathy and radiculopathy. I had him spell the words out for me but I didn't really get what that is. Can you help me understand this condition?

Answer:

Cervical refers to the neck or cervical (upper part of the) spine. Spondy means bone. Spondylosis or spondylotic is used to describe a narrowing or closure of the spinal canal. Myelopathy is any condition that affects the spinal cord, and radiculopathy describes pain that goes from the neck down the arm.

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy is the most common cause of spinal cord problems in people age 55 and older. With aging, degenerative changes in the cervical spine can cause compression of the spinal cord. Symptoms often develop slowly and without a known cause. In other words, there's no known trauma or injury. Patients report neck stiffness and pain, arm pain, numbness and weakness in the hands. Sometimes weakness of the legs and feet is also a problem.

An MRI is needed to diagnose the problem. The image shows narrowing of the spinal canal caused by bone spurs, herniated discs, and thickening of the spinal ligaments. The best treatment for this condition is still highly debated. Surgery to decompress the spinal cord and stabilize the spine is advised for some patients. Rachel Baron, PhD, et al. Measuring Outcomes in Cervical Spine Surgery: Think Twice Before Using the SF-36. In Spine. October 15, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 22. Pp. 2575-2584.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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