Transverse myelitis is a rare disease of the central nervous system involving inflammation of one level or segment of the spinal cord. The term myelitis refers to inflammation of the spinal cord; transverse simply describes the position of the inflammation, that is, across the width of the spinal cord. The inflammation causes swelling which can block messages (nerve impulses) travelling between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body.
Symptoms of transverse myelitis arise from a loss of spinal cord function over several hours to several weeks. What usually begins as a sudden onset of lower back pain, muscle weakness, or unusual feelings in the toes and feet can rapidly progress to more severe symptoms, including paralysis, and problems with the bladder and bowel. Spontaneous recovery can occur to varying degrees from around two months, with some people making very good recovery and others left with severe disabilities.
Specialist physiotherapy may include exercises designed to increase muscle strength, flexibility and co-ordination and to reduce stiffness and spasms. Advice on how best to manage fatigue and painful sensations can also be useful. Foot drop can be managed with either an Ankle-Foot orthosis (AFO) or Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES). Exercise bikes including FES bikes can help with general fitness, circulation and sense of well-being.