What sort of disease is cervical myelopathy?

Weakness. This literally means 'muscle weakness coming from the neck' or any kind of 'pinching of the nerves' in the neck causing weakness in the upper extremities. A MRI is the best test to find the source: usually a 'bulging disc' but a tumor needs to be ruled out.
Neurological. The spinal cord in the neck is not working properly. Often this is from pressure on the cord by disk, bone spurs or ligaments. Symptoms can be numbness (often in the hands), weakness, clumsiness, loss of dexterity, poor balance, unsteady walking.

Related Questions

Cervical myelopathy. What is it?

Spinal cord problem. In broad terms, it means the spinal cord in the neck area is not working properly. Symptoms (problems) a person may experience include loss of hand strength & dexterity (trouble writing, typing, opening jars, buttoning clothes), numbness or tingling in arms, hands, legs, unsteady gait (walking). It can come from pressure on the cord, but also some infections & other conditions. It is serious.
Cord dysfunctional. The spinal cord malfunctions and there are multiple reasons including cord compression from things compressing it, expanding it or even stretching it or conditions that cause changes within the cord itself like irradiation.

What is cervical myelopathy due to?

Several things. One of the most common is spondylosis: the natural degenerative (aging) of the neck, which narrows the space for the spinal cord. A large disk herniation (rupture) can also do this. Sometime ligaments within the channel containing the cord can thicken, occasionally becoming bone, and compress the cord. Pus from infection and tumor can do this. Radiation can cause myelopathy as can some infections.
Multiple reasons. A large disc herniation, narrowing of spinal canal due to degenerative changes, calcification of spine ligaments with enlargement, spinal trauma, instabilities secondary to prior trauma or degeneration, cysts, tumors, epidural abscesses, syringomyelia, post radiation, to name several reasons. Most times the spinal canal is too narrow for the spinal cord.

What causes most cervical myelopathy?

Neck arthritis. Myelopathy from spinal cord pressure is usually from disk bulges or herniations, bone spurs, ligament thickening from the degeneration ("aging") process ("arthritis" or spondylosis). People born with small canals and tendency for degeneration are more likely to get it than people born with large canals (the channel for the spinal cord).
Several reasons. There is a genetic basis for degenerative disc disease and for spinal canal diameter. Prior history of neck injury also can accelerate degenerative changes and smokers accelerate this rate 4x over a nonsmoker. An acutely herniated large disc can cause a myelopathy. Given all the potential reasons, it is most often associated with degeneration leading to a too narrow spinal canal for the cord.

I know cervical myelopathy has consequences. What are they?

Neurologic injury. Cervical myelopathy typically involves spinal cord compression with ongoing spinal cord injury and therefore patient can either develop progressive or permanent neurologic injury if the problem is not addressed in a timely manner.
Paralysis. If left untreated a cervical myelopathy will get progressively worse and lead to increasing difficulty using your hand, arms and increasing difficulty walking. You should see a neurosurgeon for a discussion regarding treatment options.
Several. This does not get better, it will get worse but that varies from slowly to rapidly to some that progress in a step-wise manner meaning a progression then a holding pattern for a while then another progression. It is not predictable but since it gets worse it should be addressed by a spine surgeon consult. You develop weakness, spasticity, numbness, lack of coordination & bowel/bladder issues.

Do lots of people get cervical myelopathy, or is it unusual?

Not very frequent. Cervical myelopathy means the discs are compressing the spinal cord, causing spinal cord dysfunction, no just pain, they have to have weakness in there legs and sensory symptoms --this is rare more common cervical radiculopathy, where a disc compress one nerve root coming out, cause weakness, numbness and pain in one arm.
Not unusual. It is not an infrequent finding. In many cases symptoms may be very mild or not noticed by the patient but may be observed by a significant other. So the overall numbers are tough to know. Disc herniations and arthritis leading to canal narrowing with cord compression are the most common reasons for this issue.

What is the definition or description of: cervical myelopathy?

Cervical cord dis. Myelopathy means pathology affecting the spinal cord in the case in the cervical region vascular lesions, tumors inflammation degenerative disc disorders or infection are the usual causes.
Neck spinal cord. The spinal cord in the neck is not functioning normally due to conditions mentioned in other answers. It can cause abnormal sensation, usually in the hands and arms. There can be weakness, most commonly in the hands. The hands can be clumsy and fine motor skills (writing, typing, buttoning, etc) are lost. Walking may be unsteady.