Key Facts

  • In Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM), a spinal cord injury (SCI) happens in slow motion.
  • DCM is the commonest cause of SCI globally.
  • It is caused by degeneration of the spine in the neck, compressing and injuring the spinal cord. 
  • DCM affects 2% of adults globally. As our population ages, incidence is rising.
  • Whereas acute traumatic SCI is well recognised, public awareness of DCM is low, including among doctors. This is despite being over 500 times more common [1].
  • People with DCM often experience long delays in diagnosis. These delays increase their risk of developing life-long disabilities and poor quality of life. 
  • DCM causes a varied and whole-body experience. Common symptoms include pain, numbness, loss of dexterity, walking and balance difficulties, reduced control of bladder and bowels, and, in severe cases, partial or total paralysis.
  • Surgery is the mainstay of treatment, aiming to stop further deterioration and allow recovery. Unfortunately, today, recovery is rarely complete. If diagnosed early, surgery can be more effective. 
  • DCM has been known by many other names, including cervical stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck), and cervical spondylotic myelopathy (caused by wear-and-tear arthritic changes in the neck).
  • The economic burden of DCM worldwide has not yet been determined. Recent studies [2] show that over the last 25 years, DCM has received less than 2% of the funding of traumatic SCI.
  • Progress is urgently required.

Dr Mark Kotter and Dr Benjamin Davies, world-leading researchers into the causes and treatments of Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM), answer frequently asked questions from people affected by myelopathy.