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What is Cervical Myelopathy and how it responds to Upper Cervical Treatment

Posted in Neck Pain Disorders on May 17, 2019

Understanding Cervical Myelopathy

Have you been diagnosed with cervical myelopathy? How is it affecting your daily life? Neck pain? Constant headaches? Tingling or weakness in your hands? Or difficulties with walking or coordination? Is it affecting your ability to focus and get work done? Or to drive? Or to enjoy time with your family or friends? Or to do basic tasks at home like cleaning, laundry or even enjoying a cup of tea?

Have you tried massage, physiotherapy, chiropractic and needling but haven’t gotten any relief? You’ve also been to your GP and a neurologist - and you’ve had the MRIs, so you know what the problem is - but you don’t want to just take medication either. And if you are honest with yourself, are you getting scared and desperate that neck surgery might be your only option?

But what if there was another way?

If cervical myelopathy is severe enough, yes, surgery might be the only option. However, if you haven’t yet exhausted all natural options, would you be willing to give something else a try?If so, let me explain how a unique form of healthcare called Blair upper cervical care may be able to help you.

 

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Cervical Myelopathy Symptoms

Cervical myelopathy occurs when there is pressure, tension or damage to the spinal cord in the neck. It isn’t the type of damage that causes paralysis, though. It is more of a degenerative process that causes damage to the spinal cord over time.Because of the nature of nerves in the neck, it is possible to experience any number of problems due to cervical myelopathy.

If you simply look at the nerves directly in the firing line, they would include the nerves that go to your head, neck, arms and hands. It is not uncommon for many people who experience cervical myelopathy to suffer a wide variety of headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, or tingling or weakness in the hands that is mistaken for “carpal tunnel syndrome.”

But that isn’t all! Bear in mind that all messages that go from your brain to your legs (and from your legs to your brain) also travel through your neck. Therefore, it is also not uncommon for people who have cervical myelopathy to experience back pain, sciatica, balance issues or weakness in their legs.

Especially if you suffer issues with your lower back and you’ve had all types of therapies to treat your lower back, it makes sense when you think about it that the problem could actually be coming from higher up!

 

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Cervical Myelopathy Causes

The most common cause of cervical myelopathy is a “pinched nerve” in the neck caused by a disc bulge. Now, cervical myelopathy isn’t exactly a “pinched nerve,” but more of an irritation caused by some kind of mechanical irritant (like a pebble in your shoe). 

Also, disc bulges aren’t the kinds of things that just happen one morning. The disc, which is a shock absorber between the vertebrae in your spine, are as strong as a tyre on your car. They don’t just “pop.” On the other hand, they can erode from years of abnormal wear and tear. The question is, why would the discs in your neck get damaged like that?

It is a process called spondylosis, also known as degeneration or osteoarthritis in the neck. Bulging discs and neck damage don’t just happen because you are getting older. If so, all people would have disc damage at all levels of their spine as they get older. That simply isn’t the case.

Disc damage, spondylosis and cervical myelopathy are usually caused by some type of whiplash injury that injured the muscles and ligaments that support the vertebrae in your neck. But because you didn’t receive treatment following the injury, the vertebrae essentially healed in the “wrong position.” As a result, it changed the way that the vertebrae in your neck moved.

Imagine driving 100kph in second gear. Your car’s transmission won’t immediately blow up, but enough grinding over time will cause it to break. It isn’t too dissimilar in the neck with the type of injury that we are describing. Because your body will attempt to compensate for the injury, it is not uncommon for the symptoms of cervical myelopathy to appear for 10, 20 or even 30 years following the injury.

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What to do about Cervical Myelopathy

The most common site of disc damage and cervical myelopathy in the neck is at the C5-C6 level, which is the keystone of the neck when you flex and extend your head. However, disc damage can occur at any level of the neck … and as a general rule, the higher the bulge (e.g., C2-C3) the more severe the problem. 

The challenge with so many of these issues is that massage, stretching and exercising alone is seldom enough to take the pressure off of the disc so that the damage has the opportunity to heal. Things like traction and forms of chiropractic called “Pettibon technique” and “Chiropractic Biophysics” technique are often very successful at helping resolve the issues of cervical myelopathy naturally and without surgery. 

However, it is my experience that these methods work best when there is also specific care made to assist with the alignment of the vertebrae between your head and neck: the C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis).

The reason is that the position of these vertebrae affect the balance position of your head over your shoulders. When these vertebrae are not properly aligned, the lower neck had to adjust (shift forward) in order to accomodate, like slumping forward when working on a computer. This position puts more pressure on the discs in the lower neck and can make it harder for injuries there to heal. 

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So focusing on the exact area of cervical myelopathy is one major piece to finding a successful resolution for the pain and symptoms you are experiencing. However, it may also demand attention to aligning the top vertebrae in your neck to get the best possible outcome.

 

Cervical Myelopathy in Adults

Cervical myelopathy most commonly affects people in the later years of life. However, it is not simply a matter of getting older. It is a matter of having long-standing injuries that have never been fully resolved.

Imagine that you suffered a car accident when you were 20 years old. You went to the hospital, and your were told that you didn’t break anything. You were sore for a few weeks, but the problem seemed to heal on its own. In your 30s and 40s, you noticed that your neck was getting increasingly stiff, and you would “pinch” your neck every few months, but you never did anything about it. You thought it was just because you were getting older.

Then, by the time you are 50 are you start to experience really nasty stuff, you already have a 30-year old injury!

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Just because you don’t have immediate symptoms doesn’t always mean that you were okay. Now, if you knew that the little problems you were experiencing were going to become bigger problems, you would have done something about it long ago!

The reality is that you didn’t realise the true nature of the problem. It may still not be too late to do anything about it, but it’s simply going to take longer .

 

Cervical Myelopathy in Children

It is almost unheard of for children to experience cervical myelopathy. However, childhood can be the very time that the process begins that may develop into cervical myelopathy decades later.

Think of all the whiplash-type injuries that children and teenagers experience: trampoline falls, rock concerts, roller coasters andsports injuries (i.e., football, concuissions etc. Add the possibility of injury from the moment of birth with prolonged labour, caesarian or forceps deliveries! Any of these injuries have the potential to damage the structure of the neck, leading to future problems.

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Add to the mix the way that kids grow up these days immediately hooked on mobile devices, laptops, computers and TV screens! Posture has always been important, but never in history has there been so much technology that has the potential to exacerbate structural issues so quickly!

“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” The early signs to watch out for in children especially are headaches, migraines and back pain

 

Chiropractic Cervical Myelopathy Diagnosis

Cervical myelopathy is formally diagnosed with MRI scans. However, MRIs don’t necessarily reveal if there is anything that can be done to help the condition. To reiterate, there are times when surgery is required for cervical myelopathy. However, many of the best surgeons recommend that you do everything in your power to find a natural solution and to avoid surgery if possible.

Here is where things like chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage may be able to help. However, as I mentioned earlier, it is imperative that your efforts include the proper alignment of the vertebrae in the top of your neck. Otherwise, you may do all these wonderful things but be missing an essential piece of the puzzle that allows you to reach your full potential.

Here is where Blair upper cervical chiropractic may be able to help. Blair upper cervical care is a unique, gentle (non “cracking”) and powerful form of healthcare that focuses on the alignment and motion of the vertebrae in the top of your neck.

The way that we diagnose problems with the upper neck is by performing a precise analysis of your posture, muscle tension; by doing specific neurological testing including computerised paraspinal thermography; and by taking customised x-rays of your neck, which show the exact location and degree of misalignment that can be helped.

Even if not possible to undo arthritis or disc damage, changes as slight as a couple of degrees or even a millimetre may be enough to take the pressure and tension off your spinal cord so that you do may be able to help the symptoms of cervical myelopathy without drugs or surgery.

 

Chiropractic Treatment for Cervical Myelopathy

The Blair upper cervical procedure is unlike general chiropractic. Foremost, there is no manipulation or “cracking” the neck. The adjustment is performed with your neck in a neutral position using as little force as possible: usually no more than the amount of pressure you would use to feel your pulse.

As light as the correction is, people are often amazed how such a small but significant adjustment can make for their cervical myelopathy and for the quality of their lives! As we mentioned before, Blair upper cervical care is not a treatment for cervical myelopathy, but is a natural form of healthcare that helps improve the function of the vertebrae in your neck so that your body may be able to manage the symptoms of cervical myelopathy to the best of its ability.

If you or a loved one are looking for a natural option that may be able to help your cervical myelopathy without drugs of surgery if possible, please contact our office at 07 3188 9329 to speak with one of our doctors to find out if Blair upper cervical care is right for you. Our practice is located in North Lakes between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast just off the Bruce Highway.

Take care of your neck with Blair upper cervical care and Atlas Health.

 

References

Dennis AK, Oakley PA, Weiner MT, et al. Alleviation of neck pain by the non-surgical rehabilitation of a pathologic cervical kyphosis to a normal lordosis: a CBP® case report. J Phys Ther Sci. 2018 Apr;30(4):654-657. doi: 10.1589/jpts.30.654. Epub 2018 Apr 20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29706725

Fortner MO, Oakley PA, Harrison DE. Cervical extension traction as part of a multimodal rehabilitation program relieves whiplash-associated disorders in a patient having failed previous chiropractic treatment: a CBP® case report. J Phys Ther Sci. 2018 Feb;30(2):266-270. doi: 10.1589/jpts.30.266. Epub 2018 Feb 20.

Kessinger RC, Boneva DV. Case Study: Acceleration/Deceleration Injury with Angular Kyphosis. J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2000; 23(4):279-87.

McAlpine JE. Subluxation Induced Cervical Myelopathy: A Pilot Study. Chiropr Res J, 1991; 2(1):7-22

Moustafa IM, Diab AAM, Hegazy FA, Harrison DE. Does rehabilitation of cervical lordosis influence sagittal cervical spine flexion extension kinematics in cervical spondylotic radiculopathy subjects? J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017;30(4):937-941. doi: 10.3233/BMR-150464.

Murphy DR, Hurwitz EL, Gregory AA. Manipulation in the presence of cervical cord compression: a case series. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2006 Mar-Apr;29(3):236-44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16584950

Vallejo R, Kramer J, Benyamin R. Neuromodulation of the cervical spinal cord in the treatment of chronic intractable neck and upper extremity pain: a case series and review of the literature. Pain Physician. 2007 Mar;10(2):305-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17387353

Wickstrom BM, Oakley PA, Harrison DE. Non-surgical relief of cervical radiculopathy through reduction of forward head posture and restoration of cervical lordosis: a case report. J Phys Ther Sci. 2017 Aug;29(8):1472-1474. doi: 10.1589/jpts.29.1472. Epub 2017 Aug 10.

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