Helpful Information

A Guide to Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy

Woman with Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy

Often referred to as spinal cord compression, cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is when the spinal cord is squeezed by bone spurs, disc herniation or instability. According to Columbia University, it’s one of the most common spinal disorders in Americans over the age of 55. Here we share common symptoms of CSM, risk factors, how it’s diagnosed and how we can help treat it. 

Symptoms & Risk Factors

People with CSM experience a variety of symptoms depending upon the severity of their compression. Symptoms include numbness, clumsiness and weakness in the hands, leg stiffness, loss of balance, urinary urgency and neck pain. Symptoms can begin rapidly or slowly, sometimes alternating between the two. And the largest risk factor for CSM is age as the disorder is caused by age-related degeneration. 

How to Diagnose CSM

Symptoms of CSM are often the same as those of other spine-related disorders. This makes diagnosing CSM very difficult. Patient history and a physical exam are the first step. Then, your doctor might choose to perform a myelo-CT, which is essentially an X-ray taken after contrast is injected into your spinal fluid via lumbar puncture. Or, they will perform a magnetic resonance imaging scan. These scans obtain high-resolution images of the spinal canal and cord. Another option is to conduct electrical tests in your arm and hands to determine how well the nerves are communicating with your brain via the spinal cord.

Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of your case, non-surgical and surgical options are available in treating CSM. Non-surgical treatments include physical therapy. But, more often than not, surgery is needed. There are several surgical procedures that are recommended for treating CSM. To determine the best course of action for you, schedule an appointment with Dr. Petersen. He will help you make the decision that will get you back to living the life you want to live.


Dr. Bendt P. Petersen is an orthopaedic and neurospine surgical specialist with over twenty years in operative clinical practice. He is a fellowship-trained surgeon whose practice is the only one in the Mobile-area devoted exclusively to the treatment of your spine.

The Center for Spine Health employs the most advanced operative and nonoperative therapies in concert with the most highly-trained physical therapists and other advanced ancillary practitioners to help you live the life you want to live.

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