Osteochondrosis is a disease of the skeletal system, characterized by changes in the cartilage tissue. As a result of the development of the disease, a person's working capacity decreases, blood circulation and the integrity of the vertebral discs are disturbed. Most often, the disease develops as a result of obesity, physical inactivity, frequent spending time at the computer or driving a car.
Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, as it develops, is characterized by the following symptoms:
Neck pain with cervical osteochondrosis
- Continuous headaches. Patients with osteochondrosis generally experience headaches, which are aggravated by a sharp turn of the neck or a sudden movement of the head.
- Neck pain that may radiate to the shoulder area. Often appears in the morning, immediately after sleep, decreases or disappears altogether after warming up the neck muscles.
- Cervical lumbago, characterized by sharp pain in the neck, hardening of the muscles in the affected area and limited mobility.
- Pain in the sternum or gallbladder. Patients most often suspect they have a pathology of the cardiovascular system, but taking nitroglycerin does not relieve pain. When cervical osteochondrosis is manifested by pain in the sternum, patients complain of a decrease in muscle strength in the arms.
- In almost all patients with osteochondrosis, you can hear a characteristic crunch and creak if you ask a person to tilt his head in different directions.
- Hoarseness of voice.
- Osteochondrosis of the neck can be manifested by numbness of the tongue, fingertips (a symptom occurs as a result of compression of the nerves and vessels located next to the intervertebral discs.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Paresis of the limbs, decreased muscle strength in the limbs.
The cause of the above symptoms is damage to the connective tissue and intervertebral discs with their subsequent deformation. As a result of pathological processes, the discs become overgrown with bone formations, osteophytes are formed, which squeeze and damage blood vessels and nerve pathways.
Stages of the disease
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine develops in several stages. The more the patient's disease progresses, the more symptoms become, the more serious the complications of the disease become.
Grade 1 cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by damage to the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disc. When metabolism is disturbed in the body, the nucleus pulposus, which is a structure of biopolymer compounds, is destroyed. At first, it loses water, gradually dries out, and therefore decreases in size. Its strength decreases significantly and it becomes more difficult for the spine to cope with physical activity. At this stage of the disease, a person does not feel pain, does not seek medical help. If you start to identify osteochondrosis at this stage, then the patient will not need drug treatment.
Degree 2 cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by damage to the annulus fibrosus in the intervertebral disc. Cracks and tears appear on the surface of the disc as a result of strong and uneven load on the spine. Due to the fact that the annulus fibrosus becomes thinner, the nucleus is completely squeezed out into the resulting tears and cracks, thereby expanding them. As a result, the disc increases in size, begins to protrude beyond the edges of the vertebrae. This phenomenon is called disc protrusion. Cervical osteochondrosis of the 2nd degree is the stage of the disease at which a person first feels pain.
Degree 3 cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by hernia formation. The annulus fibrosus not only becomes thinner, but breaks, so the nucleus pulposus "flows" into the subglottic space, forming a herniated disc. As a result of the development of the process, all surrounding tissues suffer - ligaments and muscles, nerves and blood vessels.
Over time, the skeletal system of the vertebrae changes: the edges of the vertebrae change in shape, become ribbed and even sharp. The muscles around the altered bone system contract involuntarily, thereby limiting the mobility of the spinal column. All nerve fibers running through the spinal cord are impaired, the conduction of nerve impulses from the brain to organs and tissues is disrupted. It is important that the symptoms of osteochondrosis appear depending on the location of the osteochondrosis.
Grade 4 cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by degenerative spinal reconstruction. After destructive processes in the body, recovery processes begin to prevail. The duration of the fourth stage is about a year. During this time, the nature of bone growth in the deformed vertebra changes. The bone begins to grow in width, due to which the area of the vertebra increases. Such growths in medicine are called osteophytes. Thanks to them, the mobility of the injured spine is reduced, and the processes of its destruction are suspended. Over time, the sedentary vertebra completely becomes a static bone pillar.
And if the pain syndrome decreases, the pinched nerves and blood vessels remain in place, they are squeezed not only by the discs and vertebrae, but also by the formed osteophytes. Such processes must be properly treated in order to prevent the consequences of the disease.
Complications of cervical osteochondrosis
The main consequences of the development of cervical osteochondrosis are:
- Vascular disorders (compression of arteries);
- Formation of hernias of varying severity;
- Spinal cord injury;
- Osteophyte formation;
- Restricted mobility of the spinal column.
What complications of cervicothoracic osteochondrosis can entail? The most dangerous consequence is the deterioration of the blood supply to the brain. As a result of squeezing the arteries, less blood enters the brain, and the gray matter is poorly supplied with oxygen.
If a patient develops vertebral artery syndrome - when the key blood pathway to the brain is pinched, then the person suffers from dizziness, fainting.
In addition to impaired consciousness, patients with osteochondrosis of the cervical spine experience impairment of vision and hearing. In addition to numbness of the limbs, it is possible to develop Dupuytren's syndrome, which is characterized by stiffening of the hands. As a result of the development of the syndrome, the mobility of the fingers is lost.
Hypertension and vegetative-vascular dystonia (VVD) are considered frequent complications. A cosmetic defect that appears as a result of the development of osteochondrosis is the formation of the withers ("mound" of cartilage tissue at the back of the head).
The choice of treatment for cervical osteochondrosis depends on the stage of the disease. Medical treatment consists in prescribing non-steroidal drugs, analgesics and antispasmodics by a doctor. The dosage of the drug is adjusted at the discretion of the doctor.
Physical therapy is often prescribed to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae. With the help of exercises, you can not only remove pain, but also reduce inflammation, strengthen your back muscles, and reduce the risk of complications.
Massage has a general strengthening effect. After a course of massage, a patient with osteochondrosis will lose tension and pain, and blood supply will increase.
When medication is not helpful, doctors have to prescribe surgery. During surgery, doctors remove parts of the intervertebral disc that compress the nerve roots.
The best treatment is a combination of several methods. Medical treatment must be combined with massage, physiotherapy exercises and gymnastics.
Some doctors believe that acupuncture and herbal remedies are an effective method of treatment.
To reduce pain and prevent the development of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, you can use simple methods. To begin with, each person must constantly be in a position that relieves the load on the spinal column. It is necessary to remember about exercises that knead muscles and support metabolic processes in the spine. To obtain a positive result, it is necessary to follow the recommendations given by the doctor.
- Distribute physical activity evenly on the spinal column. To do this, limit vertical loads, avoid sudden movements and exercises that can damage the spinal column. Falling or jumping from great heights should be avoided.
- Do not carry heavy objects by stretching your arms out in front of you. Before picking up an object from the floor, you must not bend forward, but squat down.
- Do not move objects in one hand, it is advisable to distribute the load on both limbs. If this is not possible, then you should place the load in a suitcase on wheels or a backpack.
- If it is necessary to carry a heavy load, then you should put on a wide belt or purchase a special corset before work.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- The best prevention of the disease is swimming, regular gymnastics, taking a contrast shower.
- Stressful situations should be avoided.
- You need to remember the rules of a balanced diet.
- Get rid of bad habits.
It is necessary to understand that it is much easier to prevent a disease than to cure it for a long time and persistently. If the operation is not required in the early stages of the disease, then the later stages of osteochondrosis require surgical intervention.