Cervical osteochondrosis: causes, symptoms and treatment

causes of cervical osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a progressive process of dystrophy, disruption of the intervertebral discs.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis are characterized by severe pain in the neck, head, shoulders and affect everyone, regardless of age.


Osteochondrosis of the neck has become much younger. Young people suffer from it from adolescence. The neck is the weakest area of ​​the spine. Seven vertebrae adjoin each other quite tightly, and the skeleton of the muscles is developed worse than the rest of the sections. The neck is subjected to serious stress, because it serves as a support for the skull and is in constant motion.

What is cervical osteochondrosis? The intervertebral discs are nourished by diffusion from adjacent tissues. Deterioration of the blood supply to the tissues surrounding the vertebrae leads to a deficiency in nutrition and water. Starvation of the disc nucleus and annulus fibrosus lead to degenerative processes.

Overgrowing bone tissue near the vertebrae, pinched intervertebral discs, and pinched nerves and ligaments first appear as signs of decreased performance. High-intensity pain is initially concentrated in the neck, head, shoulders, heart, arms, upper chest, moving to the lower extremities. Each of the seven vertebrae sends signals to other departments. Compressed nerve roots affect the state of other body systems.

Osteochondrosis is especially dangerous for the brain. The vertebral artery running here performs the function of providing blood supply to the posterior parts of the brain. Pinching it leads to headaches, often developing into migraines, not subject to pain relievers. Osteochondrosis of the neck may be accompanied by dizziness, visual and hearing impairment, nausea, and vomiting. Later, pharyngeal symptoms appear, sudden fainting due to a lack of oxygen supply to the brain. Compression of the vertebral artery leads to ischemia of the spinal cord and brain. An aggravation of the process causes a spinal stroke.


Osteochondrosis of the neck should be considered from the side of the interaction of physiological and pathological factors:

  • physiological process: the aging of the cartilage of the spine occurs due to natural irreversible causes. Changes occur in the central part of the intervertebral disc. The process of age-related changes in the body leads to the replacement of the pulp with fibrous tissue;
  • pathological process:there are degenerative changes in the intervertebral structures, destruction of the surrounding vessels and nodes. Changes occur outside the cartilage itself, there is a compression of blood vessels, irritation of nerve endings. A person feels dysalgia, pain symptoms of a local and reflected nature.

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine acquires a pathological form when physiological aging is replaced by a pathological process. At first, the compensatory and protective mechanisms of the body are triggered, eliminating the disease. Therefore, osteochondrosis is able to pass or occur only sporadically. But this function is not permanent.

The progress of the disease, expressed in the compression of vascular and nervous structures, is accompanied by the following processes:

  • spondylolisthesis, in which the spinal disc slips. Even a slight displacement leads to the development of paralysis. Severe displacement is fatal;
  • the nucleus pulposus is impregnated with calcium salts. This leads to a malnutrition of the disc, provokes the formation of a hernia;
  • an intervertebral hernia formed due to the protrusion of the intervertebral disc between the vertebrae. Ignoring therapeutic measures leads to flaccid paralysis;
  • the appearance of microcracks on the annulus fibrosus, the development of protrusion. The intervertebral disc protrudes beyond its limits;
  • spondylosis, which means wear of the vertebrae. Osteophytes arise - growths of bone tissue in the form of hooks and spines, localized on the sides of the vertebral bodies. There is severe pain and, as a result, stiffness of movements.


why there is osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

An increase in the load on the cervical spine leads to an attempt by the body to compensate for the condition. This is how muscle spasms begin, deterioration of blood circulation, deformities. The structure of the vertebrae itself changes. The cause may also be progressive discosis resulting from prolonged physical exertion.

The main factors provoking the onset of cervical osteochondrosis:

  • hypodynamia;
  • weakening of the immune system;
  • excessive physical activity;
  • presence of spinal column injuries;
  • nutritional deficiency of essential substances, obesity;
  • problems with posture (scoliosis, flat feet, rheumatism);
  • hereditary factor;
  • autoimmune diseases that cause cartilage degeneration;
  • stress, prolonged nervous tension;
  • climatic factor, cold and humidity;
  • congenital anomalies of the spinal column.

The main causes of osteochondrosis are the disproportionate distribution of the load on the spine, too weak muscle corset. People over the age of thirty are at greatest risk, especially if their day is spent sitting for a long time.


Progression of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine can be divided into several stages:

  • first, preclinical.It is characterized by slight deformities of the vertebrae, smoothness of the cervical lordosis. The pain is felt with sudden movements of the head, fatigue occurs. The development of the disease can be prevented without medication. You need to balance your diet, choose exercises, and carry out preventive measures;
  • second.An unstable state is established between the vertebrae. There are shifts of the vertebrae relative to each other, torsion - rotation around the spine. The pain intensifying with the movement of the neck from time to time radiates to the shoulders and arms. The height of the intervertebral discs decreases, which leads to pinching of the nerves. It is characterized by such signs as distraction, fatigue, headaches;
  • third stage.The height of the intervertebral disc is reduced by a quarter in relation to the superior disc. Deformities begin to appear in the intervertebral joints. There is a decrease in the lumen of the intervertebral foramen, the canal of the spine. Severe pain is felt all the time. The arm muscles begin to grow numb due to the onset of the formation of herniated intervertebral discs. The cervical spine loses flexibility. The patient feels dizzy, weak.

The height of the intervertebral disc is significantly reduced. The intervertebral discs are destroyed and replaced by connective tissue. Large osteophytes are formed on the back of the cervical spine. The spinal canal narrows very much, provoking the development of myelopathy. The patient's condition becomes worse, accompanied by impaired coordination, dizziness, severe pain, tinnitus.


Symptomatic picture of neck lesion differs from disorders in other parts. This is due to the denser arrangement of the vertebrae relative to each other. Due to the small height of the intervertebral discs, the clinic begins to manifest itself even with mild pathologies. Signs of injury will vary depending on which of the eight nerve roots is affected. There is a nerve under each of the seven vertebrae, and its compression has its own symptoms.

Problems in the first two vertebrae affect the sensitivity of the occiput. The pain is localized in the parietal, occipital region. The defeat of the nerve ending of the third vertebra is rare. Symptoms are manifested in numbness of the pinched area, tongue, speech problems. The fourth root signals a problem with pain and numbness in the collarbone, shoulder. Can create breathing difficulties, pain in the heart. The disease of the fifth segment causes pain in the shoulders, decreased sensitivity of the limbs.

Lesions of the sixth and seventh vertebrae are the most common among patients. The neck, shoulder blades, forearms, lower back, back suffer. There is numbness in the hands and fingers. Pathological changes in the eighth nerve root are characterized by the spread of pain in the lower extremities. There is a loss of sensitivity of the skin, the little fingers on the hands and feet become numb. Impaired blood circulation causes blue feet and hands.

Common signs of cervical osteochondrosis are:

  • pain extending to the upper body and lower body;
  • weakness, decreased sensitivity of the hands;
  • difficulty in movement, crunching;
  • impaired coordination, accompanied by ringing, tinnitus, feeling of disorientation, weakness, dizziness;
  • nausea, vomiting;
  • numbness of the tongue, fingers and toes, impairment of hearing, vision.


To determine the damaged intervertebral discs and the degree of their disease, the doctor needs to carry out a series of examinations: X-ray, MRI, CT (computed tomography), ultrasound duplex scanning. The most accurate way of examining the health of the cervical spine is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The purpose of MRI is to identify pathological changes in the tissues of the spinal column, in particular, the spinal cord and intervertebral hernias. After examination and questioning of the patient, the examination, the attending neurologist makes a preliminary diagnosis and prescribes treatment.


how to treat cervical osteochondrosis

If you suspect osteochondrosis, you should consult a neurologist. The duration of the course of therapy depends on the person's age, the severity of cervical osteochondrosis, the type of therapy, and the patient's compliance with all the doctor's recommendations. A complete cure for serious forms of osteochondrosis is impossible. The purpose of complex treatment is to slow down the ongoing pathological process, eliminate symptoms. Therapy can be conservative, operative, or a combination of both. If headaches become more frequent, then it is necessary to start therapy as early as possible.

There are two main types of treatment for cervical osteochondrosis:

  • medication, carried out by taking medications;
  • physiotherapy includes courses of UHF, electrophoresis, ultrasound, magnetotherapy, laser therapy. They have a stimulating effect on blood flow, metabolism, and relieve muscle spasms.

To weaken the compression of the peripheral zones of the central nervous system (CNS) and to level the pain syndrome at the time of an exacerbation of the disease, drug therapy is used. After the elimination of acute manifestations of cervical osteochondrosis, therapy is not stopped. Physiotherapy is prescribed. It is necessary to regularly massage the neck area. Folk remedies are also used.


Treatment with medicines will have a full effect only in conjunction with other methods, for example, with physiotherapy exercises (exercise therapy), massage. The drugs are designed to relieve pain, restore cartilage tissue regeneration, and activate blood circulation in the affected neck tissues.

drug therapy for cervical osteochondrosis

Many doctors prescribe injections to be more effective on nerve endings. But vitamins are best taken in pill form, since injections are very painful. To provide an anti-inflammatory effect, the doctor administers intramuscular injections.

Main types of therapy drugs:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).They have an analgesic effect, remove aseptic inflammatory process, root edema. With obvious signs of illness, injections are made twice a day with these drugs. Topically use a cream;
  • chondroprotectors.Activate metabolism, regenerate cartilage tissue. Eliminate damage to the intervertebral discs. There are injectable medications for the inside of joints and muscles. The course of therapy is carried out up to 4 months;
  • vitamins of group B (B1, B2, B6), E, ​​A, C, Dhelp to improve metabolism in tissues, catalyze their recovery;
  • muscle relaxants.For relaxation of spasmodic muscles. The tablets are used within a month. In a severe form of the disease, an injectable variety of drugs is used;
  • drugs to activate blood flow in the brain,rheological properties of blood.

The following are used as additional drugs to accelerate recovery:

  • angioprotectors- injectable forms of drugs are designed to activate blood flow in the veins, strengthen vascular tone;
  • glucocorticosteroids- to reduce edema and inflammation in the form of injections;
  • biogenic stimulants.Accelerate metabolic processes, help restore destroyed tissues.


Physiotherapeutic methods complement drug treatment, significantly increase the rate of recovery, prolong the remission phase, and reduce the frequency of exacerbations.

Physiotherapy methods:

physiotherapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine
  • Exercise therapyis ​​one of the most effective methods of treating osteochondrosis. Regular exercise activates blood circulation, helps to restore damage;
  • massageimproves nerve conduction, restores muscle tone;
  • magnetic therapyrelieves tissue edema;
  • laser therapyacts with a concentrated beam of optical light. Launches recovery processes in the body;
  • reflexology- activation of certain points. Strengthens the immune system, relieves spasms and pain in the neck;
  • ultrasoundgives an analgesic, anti-inflammatory effect;
  • electrophoresis with medicinal herbs.Electric current promotes the penetration of drug ions into a specific place.

To get rid of cervical osteochondrosis, manual therapy, thermotherapy, mud therapy are also used. All of these methods slow down the progress of the disease.

It is impossible to cure osteochondrosis with herbs, but, accompanying the main therapy, they help to alleviate the condition. Mix 2 teaspoons of bee honey with two mummy tablets. The mixture is heated, applied to a warm scarf, which is tied around the neck at night. The biostimulating properties of honey perfectly complement the treatment. For grinding, use a tincture made from radish, vodka and honey in a ratio of 1. 5: 0. 5: 1, measured in glasses. You can twist three large lemons using a meat grinder with four garlic cloves. Pour boiling water over the mixture in a two-liter jar. After mixing the contents, drink half a glass on an empty stomach. The pain can also be relieved by warming up with mustard plasters, pepper plaster.


During the recovery period, you can perform a set of therapeutic exercises for the neck. Exercise therapy is based on several dynamic exercises. You should not carry out gymnastics during exacerbation. When performing exercises, it is recommended to monitor the appearance of discomfort, it is unacceptable.

From a prone position, raise your upper body using your arms. Delay for 1-2 minutes. Lower to the starting position and repeat 2-3 times. Then you need to stretch your arms along the body. Head turns are made to the right and left 6-7 times, trying to reach the floor with the ear. Sit down. Tilt the body forward while inhaling, the head tilts towards the chest. On exhalation, bend back, throwing your head back. Enough 10-15 inclinations. Now you need to put your palms on your forehead and apply mutual pressure for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times. Rotate your head 10 times in each direction. If your head starts spinning, the exercise must be interrupted.


massage for cervical osteochondrosis

The cervical region is rich in blood vessels, nerve endings that feed the brain. The slightest squeezing of them harms the whole body, disrupting blood circulation in the brain and causing neurological disorders: migraine, malfunctions of the heart, respiratory system, vision, hearing, hypertension. Especially dangerous complications in the form of vertebral artery syndrome, cerebral ischemia, spinal stroke, arising from the advanced form of neck disease. When radiculopathy occurs, mobility is lost. Spinal cord compression is fatal.

In order to avoid surgical intervention in the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, one should not delay seeking medical attention at the first sign. It is necessary to use all available methods of therapy, as well as changes in lifestyle, nutrition.