My wife was told she has myelopathy caused by degenerative disc disease. She has neck and arm pain that goes down to her fingers. Is this condition life-threatening?

Myelopathy refers to any disease or condition affecting the spinal cord. Degenerative disease in the discs refers to damage to and break down of the disc material. Degenerative disc disease is common in the older adult. It often becomes symptomatic in middle age and gets worse as we age.

In the neck, when the disc pushes out of its space, it can put pressure on the spinal cord or the spinal nerves as they leave the spinal cord. The result can be pain, weakness, and numbness and tingling into the arms. The symptoms are very bothersome, but not usually life-threatening.

Treatment with drugs, physical therapy, and sometimes, surgery can be very helpful.