The best patient is a well-informed patient. You are your own advocate. Ask questions. Write them down before your doctor visits. Show up prepared so you will receive the best advice and the most information that will benefit you that your doctor can provide.
Doctors give varying degrees of advice when it comes to Syringomyelia. Possibly because it is not yet well-researched. Read all that you can about the disease. Talk to doctors, talk with your peers with the disease through websites and forums, and learn what you can, not only from doctors, but on your own.
Checkout some of these sites for Syringomyelia and Chiari Malformation and read through them to see what new research has been done. Find a doctor who specializes in these two diseases of the spinal cord.
American Syringomyelia and Chiari Alliance Project: http://www.asap.org/
Chiari & Syringomyelia Foundation: http://www.csfinfo.org/
The Chiari Care Center: http://chiaricare.com/Related-Disorders/Syringomyelia.aspx
When I was told I have Syringomyelia from my cervical spine to bottom of thoracic spine, my first neurologist told me that all physical activity should be stopped. Completely. He was referring to: running, weight-lifting, hiking, kayaking, aerobic exercise (except swimming – swimming is okay), carrying anything over 5 pounds, or carrying anything on my back or shoulders such as a backpack or a heavy purse. No pilates, no dancing, no rough-housing. He had a laundry list of stuff that I should no longer do. It was recommended that I not reach above my head. Don’t tilt my neck back. Don’t roll my neck. Be gentle with my body.
Neurologist number two said to keep swimming, use the StairMaster (no running on treadmill), lift weights 5, 8, and 10 pounds, keep hiking, keep kayaking, but maybe nix the idea of whitewater rafting and sky-diving. So I won’t sky-dive. I will however go whitewater rafting. She said it will get worse regardless of activity. She did not endorse insane activity like sky-diving or running, but did say that continuing to be active would alleviate some of the top symptoms of the ailment. Being sedentary can oftentimes make people feel worse due to loss of muscle mass, weight gain, and not keeping bones healthy. She also reinforced the following: do not reach above my head. Do not tilt my neck back. Do not roll my neck. DO be gentle with my body.
For my own case of Syringomyelia, I agree with doctor number two. I do heed warnings from both doctors to stop running. Stop doing anything jarring. No rolling of the neck. However, I will say activities such as bowling, badminton, volleyball, and stuff like that I still enjoy. I am not jumping around and jarring my body. I see where people could get a bit more active and aggressive though.
Listen to your doctors. Get second and third opinions. A lot of people I have spoken to have a small Syrinx. Maybe from T2 to T3 or T6 to T8. Mine is from Cervical all the way down to T12. I have severe Coccyx pain (coccydynia). So I actually do try to be careful with the activities in which I choose to participate. Some people I have spoken to with a small Syrinx have severe disabilities with mobility issues. Other people go their entire lives without any symptoms at all. I have yet to encounter anyone with a Syrinx as long as mine who is completely debilitated. Some people I have talked with who have a long Syrinx go through flare-ups and waves of pain and immobility, but seem to bounce back from the flare-up quickly. I have noticed the people with the longer Syrinxes are the most active. Maybe because of the thought of paralysis…? Maybe the more active people did something during some activity that cause the Syrinx to begin with..? I have no idea.
Talk to your doctors. Get informed.