Tremor as a symptom of degenerative cervical myelopathy: a systematic review

Br J Neurosurg. 2022 Jun;36(3):340-345. doi: 10.1080/02688697.2022.2033701. Epub 2022 Feb 8.


Background: AO Spine RECODE-DCM (Research objectives and common data elements for degenerative cervical myelopathy) has highlighted that the subjective disability reported by people living with DCM is much broader than routinely considered today by most professionals. This includes a description of tremor. The objective of this review was to study the incidence and possible aetiology of tremor in degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM).

Methods: A systematic review registered in PROSPERO (CRD42020176905) was conducted in Embase and MEDLINE for papers studying tremor and DCM published on or before the 20th of July 2020. All manuscripts describing an association between tremor and DCM in humans were included. Articles relating to non-human animals, and those not available in English were excluded. An analysis was conducted in accordance with PRISMA and SWiM guidelines for systematic reviews.

Results: Out of a total of 4402 screened abstracts, we identified 7 case reports and series describing tremor in 9 DCM patients. Papers were divided into three groups for the discussion. The first group includes DCM correctly identified on presentation, with tremor as a described symptom. The second group includes cases where DCM was misdiagnosed, often as Parkinson's disease. The third group includes a single case with a previous history of DCM, presenting with an otherwise unexplained tremor. This grouping allows for the clustering of cases supporting various arguments for the association between tremor and DCM.

Conclusion: DCM can be associated with tremor. The current evidence is restricted to case series. Further study is warranted to establish tremor prevalence, and its significance to assessment and management.

Keywords: Spinal cord diseases; cervical vertebrae; dyskinesias; dystonic disorders; movement disorders; spinal osteophytosis; spondylosis; tremor.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Vertebrae*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Neck
  • Spinal Cord Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Tremor / etiology