Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine (CS) is one of the most common pathologies of the musculoskeletal system. Every year, doctors diagnose this disease more and more often, and it progresses more and more severely. According to statistics, in women, degenerative-dystrophic changes in the upper spine occur more often, especially for patients in the postmenopausal period. The main symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis in women are pain, limitation of mobility, cerebral circulation failure, and this is dangerous not only for health, but also for life. To protect yourself from the dangerous consequences of pathology, you need to start treating it in the early stages. It is important to carry out complex therapy, change the lifestyle in order to stop the destruction of the spinal segments and prevent serious complications.
The cervical spine is the most vulnerable to various injuries and degenerative changes. This is due to the fact that this segment is the most mobile, and the muscles are weak here. Small cervical vertebrae withstand heavy stress every day, which leads to the gradual destruction of the intervertebral discs. The vertebrae press against each other, which is why the cartilaginous pads between them lose a lot of fluid, begin to degrade and deform.
In addition, osteochondrosis of the cervical spine develops due to insufficient nutrition of the cartilage tissue. And the spinal canal in this area is narrow, therefore it is often pinched, which causes neurological symptoms.
Pathology in women in the early stages is manifested by heaviness in the back of the head, tingling in the hands, and so on. Often, patients confuse the first signs of the disease with overwork.
A large number of blood vessels and nerve roots are located on the neck area, and when they are compressed, neurological disorders can also occur. It is especially dangerous if a deformed disc or vertebrae compress the vertebral artery, which feeds important parts of the brain. When it is squeezed, coordination of movements is disturbed, a woman can lose balance, her vision and hearing deteriorate, and the risk of stroke increases.
Reference. According to statistics, most often cervical osteochondrosis is found in patients from 25-40 years old. This is due to a massive decrease in physical activity, sedentary work. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than men, since they have more fragile vertebrae and thin bone tissue.
Doctors distinguish 4 stages of osteochondrosis SHOP:
- Stage 1 - the intervertebral disc loses some moisture, its height decreases, cracks may appear on the fibrous ring (outer shell). This is the stage of cervical chondrosis, which is difficult to identify, since it has unexpressed symptoms. The neck gets tired quickly, there is discomfort, heaviness in the damaged area, sometimes there is a slight pain that quickly passes.
- Stage 2 - cracks on the surface of the disc increase, the nucleus pulposus (gel-like contents of the disc) is displaced, it can protrude through the damaged areas. This is how the protrusion of the cartilaginous lining appears, which can compress the spinal cord and its roots. Periodically, there is severe pain, weakness, limitation of mobility, numbness of the face, neck, shoulders, arms may occur.
- Stage 3 - the protrusion breaks through the outer shell of the disc, so a hernia is formed. The pain becomes more pronounced, neurological disorders are present.
- Stage 4 - the disc is almost completely destroyed, the vertebrae rub against each other, bone growths (osteophytes) appear on their edges, which are designed to stabilize the damaged segment. Nerve endings, spinal cord, blood vessels are impaired. Adjacent joints begin to be damaged. Clinical signs are pronounced.
It is easiest to stop degenerative-dystrophic changes in the first two stages of osteochondrosis of the SHOP. At stage 3, complex treatment will help stop further destruction of the spinal segment. At the last stage, you cannot do without surgery.
Osteochondrosis SHOP is a complex and lengthy process that most often has several causes. In most cases, pathology occurs as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, malnutrition, metabolic disorders. Often, the disease occurs due to injuries or due to the natural aging of the body and the weakening of its defenses.
Doctors identify the main causes of osteochondrosis SHOP in women:
- Disruption of metabolic processes.
- Passive lifestyle.
- Genetic predisposition.
- Chronic muscle tension around the cervical segment.
- Curvature of posture.
- Deficiency of fluids and nutrients in the body.
- Prolonged stay in an uncomfortable position (neck extended forward and back hunched).
- Excessive weight.
- Frequent wearing of high-heeled shoes.
- SHOP injuries.
- Lifting heavy objects.
- Autoimmune pathologies.
- Frequent stress, chronic fatigue.
- Infectious diseases.
- Neck too long or too short, and so on.
All these factors provoke malnutrition of the intervertebral discs and lead to their degeneration.
Female cervical osteochondrosis can be caused by pathologies of the vertebral artery associated with a genetic predisposition, intrauterine disorders, trauma during childbirth. The disease can occur as a result of rheumatism, endocrine disorders, excessive load on the cervical segment during pregnancy, local overload.
Important. The main cause of cervical osteochondrosis in women is menopause, as well as changes associated with this period. At this stage, the concentration of progesterone, which is very important for bone tissue, decreases in the body. The likelihood of degenerative changes is associated with age-related weakening of the neck muscles and weakening of the support of the vertebrae in this area.
For osteochondrosis, a wave-like course is characteristic, when the acute period is replaced by remission. Exacerbation can provoke infections, injuries, hypothermia, prolonged stress on the neck.
The first signs of cervical osteochondrosis in women are headaches, discomfort, heaviness in the neck. It is important to distinguish in time the pain of chondrosis from migraines or autonomic dysfunction.
Clinical manifestations of osteochondrosis SHOP in women are caused by neurological syndromes:
- Cervical dyscalgia occurs when nerve endings are irritated by fragments of damaged cartilaginous lining. Then there is a specific crunch in the neck, pain, which becomes more pronounced when moving the head and after sleeping.
- The syndrome of the scalene muscle becomes a consequence of damage to the vessels and nerves of the brachial plexus and the subclavian artery. This symptom complex is accompanied by pain from the inner surface of the shoulder to the hand from the injured side. The limb becomes pale, cool, edematous, numbness occurs. Neck pain extends to the back of the head when the patient turns her head.
- Shoulder-scapular periarthrosis syndrome - dystrophic changes affect the tendon fibers that surround the shoulder. Painful sensations from the neck radiate to the shoulder and shoulder girdle. There is a forced position of the neck - it is tilted to the affected side, and the shoulder is slightly lowered.
- Vertebral artery syndrome - a blood vessel is compressed by fragments of a damaged disc or osteophytes (depending on the stage of the disease). The patient is dizzy and has a headache, nausea, sometimes vomiting. The pain is localized in the occiput, crown and temples.
- Cardiac - the nerve bundles of the spinal cord are damaged. There is a heartache, arrhythmia. If C3 is damaged, pain appears in half of the neck, the tongue swells, the patient cannot chew food normally. If C4 is injured, then discomfort appears in the shoulder girdle, collarbone, heart. With the defeat of C5, the pain reaction from the neck extends to the shoulder girdle, the inner surface of the shoulder. Irritation C6 manifests itself as pain from the neck and scapula to the shoulder girdle and spreads throughout the arm to the thumb. If C7 is damaged, the pain syndrome spreads to the back of the shoulder girdle, captures the entire hand, including the index and middle fingers. When C8 is squeezed, the pain spreads from the affected area to the elbow and little finger.
Also, a woman's emotional sphere may be disturbed, weakness arises, she becomes anxious, touchy. Insomnia often occurs, memory and attention are weakened due to regular headaches.
Symptoms of cerebrovascular accident appear when a woman suddenly throws her head back, tilts her or performs work that puts a load on her arms and cervical spine, for example, when she digs, paints the ceiling, and carries weights.
Violation of cerebral circulation is manifested by dizziness, shaky gait, "flies" before the eyes, tinnitus, weakness, nausea. In some patients, the voice becomes hoarse, sometimes disappears, a sore throat appears.
Osteochondrosis during menopause is accompanied by migraines, increased body sweating in the area between the neck and shoulder girdle. When the vertebral artery is compressed, the work of the cardiovascular system is disrupted.
If the disease lasts for a long time, then there is a circulatory failure of important centers that perform neuro-endocrine functions. Due to the increased permeability of the vascular walls, atherosclerosis of the cerebral and cardiac arteries develops.
If you notice symptoms of osteochondrosis, then go to a therapist. After a visual examination, a specialist will refer you to an orthopedist, vertebrologist, or neurologist.
To diagnose cervical osteochondrosis, the following methods are used:
- X-ray allows you to find out that the patient has displaced vertebrae, osteophytes are present on their edges, the distance between the vertebrae has decreased. For this, the study is carried out in different planes. To detail the characteristic changes, the doctor takes sighting pictures.
- CT of the cervical spine provides detailed information about pathological changes in the vertebrae. This method allows you to obtain volumetric images for a more detailed study, it is used in severe diagnostic cases.
- MRI is used to accurately assess the condition of the soft tissues (nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, muscles) in the affected area.
- Electromyography allows you to check the conduction of a nerve fiber.
Also, doctors may prescribe Doppler ultrasound (Doppler ultrasound of the great arteries of the brain) to determine the state of blood flow in this area.
In the early stages, the treatment of osteochondrosis of the SHOP in women can be carried out at home. However, the doctor should draw up a therapy regimen. It is important to understand that this is a long process and it is unlikely that it will be completely cured (especially for older women).
The complex treatment includes:
- Taking medications.
- Use of orthopedic devices.
- Physiotherapy procedures.
- Massage, manual impact.
- Alternative treatments.
Conservative techniques will help to stop pain, inflammation, normalize muscle tone, improve metabolic processes, nutrition of damaged segments of the spine. With timely therapy, it is possible to stop pathological changes.
Medicines for cervical osteochondrosis will help get rid of inflammation and pain.
Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis in women is carried out with the use of drugs that will help improve the metabolism of cartilaginous linings between the vertebrae, stop inflammation, pain. For this purpose, the following drugs are used:
- NSAIDs. May help relieve mild to moderate inflammation and pain.
- Analgesics. Pain is relieved.
- Preparations to improve cerebral circulation.
- Muscle relaxants help relieve muscle spasms.
- Chondroprotectors. They help to stop the destruction of discs, improve metabolic processes, and accelerate recovery.
- Magnesium based medicines.
- Nootropics. They stimulate the work of the brain due to the normalization of its blood circulation, have a mild sedative effect.
Reference. With intense pain that is not relieved by oral medications, therapeutic blockades are used, for example, with a solution of Novocaine or NSAIDs.
Treatment can be supplemented with anti-inflammatory and pain relievers in the form of gels, creams and ointments. They will be effective at the stage of remission or in combination with oral agents.
The decision on the choice of drug combinations is made by the doctor. The specialist will draw up a regimen for taking medications, and also determine their dosage. It is important to follow his recommendations, since many of the above medications threaten with dangerous complications.
During the acute stage of osteochondrosis of the SHOP, a woman must give up heavy physical activity. To unload the cervical segment, you need to wear a special corset (Shants collar), which will fix the vertebrae in the correct position. This device is recommended for use during prolonged sedentary or hard physical work.
Physiotherapy procedures will help ease pain and improve blood circulation in the damaged area:
- Diadynamic therapy.
- Ultraviolet irradiation and so on.
The therapeutic effect is manifested after about the third session, then headache, hearing disorders, vision disorders, dizziness, sleep is normalized or disappears, the general condition improves.
With the help of underwater traction of the cervical segment, it is possible to expand the distance between the vertebrae, release a nerve or blood vessel from compression, and restore the normal position of the vertebrae.
Massage will normalize muscle tone, reduce the flow of lymphatic fluid, which causes swelling. After several sessions, blood circulation in the damaged area improves.
Therapeutic gymnastics is one of the most effective methods of treating osteochondrosis of the SHOP. Exercise therapy allows you to strengthen the weak muscles of the neck, which will then take on some of the load from the spine and help stop or slow down degenerative-dystrophic changes. During classes, blood circulation improves, metabolic processes, nutrition of the discs are accelerated, which has a positive effect on their condition.
Women should train every day. They consist of simple yet effective exercises. The complex consists of turns, tilts of the head in different directions, as well as movements of the neck, during which the hands are used. These elements can be performed at home, but only with the permission of the doctor. Physiotherapy exercises are carried out only at the stage of remission.
Complex treatment can be supplemented with reflexology (acupuncture), hirudotherapy (leech therapy), swimming, and so on.
The operation is prescribed at the last stages of osteochondrosis of the SHOP, which are accompanied by serious destruction of the osteochondral structures. Also, surgical intervention is indispensable if conservative techniques are ineffective or the spinal canal is significantly narrowed.
In the cases described above, an anterior cervical discectomy is performed. During the procedure, the doctor immobilizes the damaged segment of the spinal column and removes the hernia that was compressing the spinal nerve. Then the vertebrae, between which the disc was removed, are fused. If necessary, the space between the vertebrae is filled with a synthetic insert (cage).
After 3-5 days, the patient is discharged home. The rehabilitation period is about 12 weeks. To speed up recovery, you need to take medications, wear a corset, lead a healthy lifestyle, go to physiotherapy procedures, and eventually perform exercise therapy.
To quickly get rid of the unpleasant symptoms of osteochondrosis and stop degenerative-dystrophic changes in the cervical segment, you need to adjust your lifestyle. To do this, the patient must follow these recommendations:
- Go for walks daily, avoid running, jumping and other explosive activities.
- Heavy objects must not be carried.
- You cannot sit for a long time, in extreme cases, wear a corset and periodically take a horizontal position.
- Perform specific physical exercises for the back muscles at home.
- Sleep on an orthopedic mattress and a special pillow.
- Follow a diet, replenish the diet with foods rich in magnesium, calcium (nuts, dairy products, seafood, legumes), as well as plant fiber, chondroitin (jellied meat, jelly). Refuse fatty, fried, too salty foods, alcohol. The doctor will advise you on the nutritional rules in more detail. But in any case, it must be correct.
Hypothermia should not be allowed, warming up will be beneficial in the absence of an inflammatory process.
In the absence of timely treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, a woman may experience the following pathology consequences:
- The likelihood of protrusion, which after a while transforms into a hernia. The bulge compresses the spinal cord as well as its nerves, causing neurological damage.
- Osteophytes appear when the disc is severely damaged; they irritate the spinal nerves and blood vessels.
- In advanced cases, a strong weakening of the neck muscles or incomplete paralysis is possible, then the head involuntarily hangs to the side or forward.
- Compression of the vertebral arteries, impaired blood circulation in the affected area. This condition can cause neuralgia (pain along the path of a nerve), hearing and vision impairment.
- Paralysis (incomplete or complete) of the hands.
- Brain stroke.
If a woman deals with the issue in the early stages of osteochondrosis SHOP, then she will be able to prevent the above conditions.
Ideally, it is necessary to engage in the prevention of osteochondrosis of the SHOP even during the period of intrauterine development. The expectant mother should exclude factors that negatively affect the development of the fetus: infections, oxygen starvation, intoxication. If a birth injury has occurred, the newborn should be treated.
To reduce the likelihood of developing osteochondrosis SHOP, a woman should follow these recommendations:
- Load the spine evenly, for example, carry the load in both hands or take turns in the right and then the left.
- Don't lift too much weight yourself.
- Try to avoid neck injuries, hypothermia.
- When working in garden plots, take a break every 1. 5 hours, go to rest for 20 minutes.
- Choose shoes with cushioned soles that will cushion impacts while running or jumping.
- When sitting for long periods, use a high-backed chair with a headrest, or wear a corset.
It is also important to eat right, control weight, avoid stress, take vitamin preparations for medical reasons, treat pathologies that can cause osteochondrosis in time. At the stage of remission, it is recommended to visit sanatoriums to undergo a course of treatment.
The most important
As you can see, in women, osteochondrosis of the cervical spine occurs more often than in men, since the former have more fragile vertebrae and thin bone tissue. The patient's pathology is especially susceptible in the postmenopausal period. The disease manifests itself in pain, neurological disorders, and dangerous symptoms of cerebrovascular accident. It is recommended to start treatment in the early stages to avoid dangerous complications of osteochondrosis. To do this, a woman must take medications, adjust her lifestyle, attend physiotherapy procedures, massage, and do physical therapy. Surgical treatment is indicated only in advanced cases. To prevent pathology, you need to observe moderate physical activity, treat injuries and diseases in time that can provoke osteochondrosis.