Softening of the Spinal Cord in the Neck

Category: Neck Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: November 22, 2017

Spinal Cord Softening

Cervical myelomalacia is the technical term for a softening of the spinal cord in the upper part of the spine, and it occurs due to a deficiency in the blood supply that feeds to the spinal cord. It can be caused by a few different actions, some preventable and some non-preventable, and the sooner it is treated, the better the outcomes. Today, we take a closer look at why the condition develops, and how a spine surgeon can treat the condition.

Why Does Your Spinal Cord Soften?

Like many other injuries to the spine, a softening of the spinal cord typically has two distinct causes – trauma and degeneration. Acute trauma cannot always be prevented, although we can take certain precautions in order to limit the force exerted on our spine. For example, although we can’t always avoid a car accident, we can wear a seat belt and drive with caution. Trauma to the cervical portion of the spine is also common in athletic activity, which shows how important it is to wear protective gear and practice proper form.

The other common cause of spinal cord softening is from spinal degeneration or blood supply damage, which occurs during the natural aging process. We can’t slow down the aging process, but regular exercise, a healthy diet and avoiding certain health risks like smoking or excessive alcohol intake can help stave off this natural degeneration.

Treating Cervical Myelomalacia

If cervical myelomalacia is causing pain or imaging tests reveal that it is jeopardizing the integrity of your spine, treatment will be needed. Oftentimes this comes in the form or a surgical operation, and doctors have developed both minimally invasive and open procedures to correct the issue.

A minimally invasive operation to correct cervical myelomalacia is traditionally performed on an outpatient basis. The surgeon will create a small incision in the neck region in order to access the bone or disc that is contributing to the softening or compression. That piece is removed and a small implant or bone graft is inserted into the space to replace the damaged bone. The graft solidifies very quickly and patients are typically discharged the same day.

Minnesota Neck Surgery

If a patient is too old for surgery or has health issues that could complicate the operation, they may be prescribed steroids to reduce swelling or muscle relaxers to decrease spasticity in the area. The earlier the condition is treated, the more damage can be minimized, and if caught early enough, it can even be reversed.

After surgery, patients are asked to minimize their activity levels for 4-6 weeks. They should avoid overexerting themselves or excessive twisting, bending or lifting, although doctors recommend that they do stay mobile in order to best help healthy blood flow to the area. Patients can return to full activity after about a month or two once cleared by their doctor.

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