Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

My 72-year old sister fell and hit her head in her home. She had an MRI that found a serious problem with pressure on the spinal cord in the neck. Evidently she's had some symptoms that she's been ignoring for a long-time. What happens if she continues to ignore this problem?

Answer:

The term myelopathy describes any condition affecting the spinal cord. This could be the formal diagnosis for the kind of problem you are describing. Your sister may have had weakness in the hands, changes in handwriting, or even balance problems that she chose to ignore.

Signs of more severe compression include noticeable weakness in the arms and/or legs. If the condition is allowed to get worse, more serious problems can develop. Patients can lose bowel and bladder function. They may lose the ability to walk alone. Loss of strength and coordination may lead to frequent falls.

Long-term studies of patients who do not have surgery for this problem report that two-thirds of the patients affected get worse over time. They may end up in a wheelchair permanently. Medical treatment (usually surgery) is advised to stabilize the neck and prevent these types of problems. Kornelis A. Poelstra, MD, PhD, et al. Managing Neck Pain: Evaluation and Treatment Recommendations. In The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. November 2006. Vol. 23. No. 11. Pp. 809-814.

*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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