Myelopathy vs Radiculopathy – What’s the difference?

Myelopathy and Radiculopathy are two distinct spinal issues that can exhibit similar symptoms.

Myelopathy refers to a condition known as spinal cord compression, while radiculopathy occurs when a nerve root (but not the cord itself) becomes compressed. The latter is more commonly known as a pinched nerve root.

Both conditions tend to occur most often in the cervical spine, but they can affect any of the three major regions of the back.

Myelopathy vs Radiculopathy - Spinal Nerves and Spinal Cord Compression Differences


Cervical myelopathy (or even that which occurs in the other two regions of the back) is typically caused by:


Cervical radiculopathy occurs when a nerve in your neck become pinched. This can be due to:

  • Degenerative changes in the spine, such as disc degeneration, the formation of bone spurs, or joint degeneration, all of which may press against said nerve root.
  • A herniated or bulging spinal disc that presses against it.
  • Spinal compression.


Some symptoms of cervical, thoracic and lumbar radiculopathy and myelopathy may overlap, and as such it may at times be difficult to distinguish the correct root of the problem. Some common symptoms include:

  • Back or neck pain.
  • Referred pain to other parts of the body, such as the arms and legs.
  • Weakness, numbness and tingling sensations.
  • Stiffness and reduced range of motion.

In addition, compression of the spinal cord might also lead to more severe issues, such as loss of control of one’s bladder and/or bowels.

Treatment Options

Nerve compression has a high positive response rate to non-surgical treatments, while for spinal cord compression, surgical procedures may be recommended more often, as the latter can sometimes pose a higher risk to the person than a pinched nerve root.

In general, pain caused by both conditions can be managed through a combination of the following:

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Spinal decompression therapy is especially beneficial for these two conditions as it works on reversing the very process that is causing your issues – spinal compression. Once your spine is fully decompressed, your spinal nerves will no longer have other structures press against them, and thus pain triggers will no longer be firing up.

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