Causes and symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis

neck pain with osteochondrosis

Among all disorders of the musculoskeletal system, the second most common is osteochondrosis of the cervical spine. Symptoms and treatment of the disease are determined by the stage of its development, so it is so important not to miss the signs of an impending illness.

Osteochondrosis is called dystrophic changes in the articular cartilage against the background of damage to the intervertebral discs. Cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by pathological destruction of the cartilaginous tissue of the vertebrae that support the head.

Most often, the disease is diagnosed in people between the ages of 30 and 40. In developed countries, one or another degree of cervical osteochondrosis is diagnosed in 80% of the population.

The neck is considered the most mobile part of the spine. At the same time, there are not enough muscles around the neck that can compensate for the load on the spine. Therefore, the bulk of the load falls on the intervertebral discs, which act as a shock-absorbing pad.

As a result, the discs wear out, dry out and flatten, osteochondrosis develops.

The reasons contributing to the appearance of pathology lie not only in anatomy, but also in human behavior:

  • sedentary and static, sedentary work - at the computer, driving a car, in the office;
  • excess weight;
  • great physical activity;
  • smoking;
  • improper nutrition;
  • weak physical shape;
  • spinal injury.

Additional provoking factors for the development of osteochondrosis are: flat feet, soft mattresses and pillows, the habit of carrying a bag on the shoulder, hypothermia and stress.

How does the disease manifest

At the beginning of the disease, its development can only be evidenced by neck swelling, which is usually not paid attention to. As the pathology progresses, the number and intensity of manifestations increases.

There are characteristic symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis:

  • pain in the back of the head, at the base of the neck, radiating to the extremities;
  • crunch and soreness when turning the head;
  • numbness or tingling in the areas between the shoulder blades and at the base of the neck, burning, discomfort and stiffness;
  • headaches, migraines, dizziness;
  • weakness, tiredness.

Secondary symptoms include decreased vision, hearing, memory problems, sleep disturbances, inattention, absent-mindedness, pressure surges.

Doctors classify signs of osteochondric processes as syndromes associated with a certain type of spinal lesion.

Stenosis. It develops against the background of herniated intervertebral discs and is accompanied by impaired blood circulation and overgrowth of bone tissue. Manifested by numbness of the limbs.

Reflex-irritative syndrome is a consequence of compression of the vertebral artery in case of neck curvature and poor posture. It manifests itself in severe paroxysmal pain in the back of the head with a gradual spread to areas around the forehead.

Radicular syndrome. It is observed when the spinal roots are flattened - the consequences of a hernia. At the same time, the sensitivity in the affected areas decreases, and motor activity becomes limited. May be accompanied by the development of speech defects, snoring, impaired sense of smell, decreased sensitivity of the muscles of the tongue.

The complexity of the course of the processes is determined by the state of the nucleus pulposus filling the vertebral space.

Degenerative lesions of the cervical region are conventionally divided into three stages:

  • first. The intervertebral disc is compacted. The hook-shaped processes of the vertebrae are enlarged. Muscle stiffness appears, but their mobility does not change. There may be slight swelling and pain when turning the head;
  • second. It develops against the background of the progress of the first stage of the disease, if the treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine was absent or was carried out incorrectly. The intervertebral foramen narrow, the height of the intervertebral discs becomes smaller due to their flattening. Pinching of the nerve roots occurs. The patient feels pain of a point nature;
  • third. Cracks in the annulus fibrosus surrounding the intervertebral disc lead to rupture of its capsule and deformation of muscle tissue. The stability of fixation of the nucleus pulposus inside the intervertebral disc is impaired. An intervertebral hernia develops. It is characterized by acute pain in the neck, numbness of the tongue, edema, limited mobility, curvature of the spine.

The correct position of the cervical vertebrae determines the functionality of the optic and auditory nerves, nose, lips, mouth, throat ligaments, teeth, facial nerve, pituitary gland, brain, parasympathetic nervous system, muscles of the neck and forearms, thyroid gland, elbow and shoulder joints.

Diagnostic methods

An accurate determination of the cause of the development of osteochondrosis allows you to target the disease in a targeted manner. The preliminary diagnosis is indicated after the initial examination by the doctor.

The patient's complaints about the nature of pain syndromes are taken into account, as well as information obtained during examination of the spine in various positions. Examination of the cervical spine allows you to determine the presence of seals and deformities. In addition, attention is paid to the patient's muscle tone and motor capabilities.

Physicians receive complete diagnostic information using such studies as:

  • radiography. The procedure allows you to assess the condition of the vertebrae in two projections - frontal and lateral. Result - identification of damage, salt deposits and compacted formations;
  • magnetic resonance imaging allows you to establish not only any pathology of the spine, but also the degree of their severity. Using MRI, the doctor can assess the condition and level of damage to nerve endings, blood vessels and intervertebral discs;
  • computed tomography - digitization of information obtained by X-ray irradiation.

In the presence of dizziness, additional examination of the structural changes in the vessels by Doppler, angiography and duplex scanning may be necessary.

How to treat cervical osteochondrosis?

After making an accurate diagnosis and finding out the causes of the development of the disease, the neurologist determines how to treat cervical osteochondrosis.

The optimal results are obtained with a combination therapy involving the use of several methods. The protocols adopted by the WHO include medication, apparatus procedures, exercise therapy and therapeutic massage.

Medication treatment

In each case, the choice of drugs is made on an individual basis. It depends not only on the severity of the pathology, but also on the specific characteristics of the patient's body.

Fixed assets of drug treatment:

  • anti-inflammatory drugs - pills that relieve pain and inflammation;
  • chondroprotectors - drugs that activate the regeneration of cartilage tissue;
  • external agents - ointments and gels that relieve pain and inflammation;
  • a complex of vitamins to support the body and stimulate its recovery.

At the first stage of the therapeutic effect, it is possible to increase the pain syndrome - this is the reaction of the muscular system. Physiotherapy is used to reduce discomfort and improve the results of drug treatment.


Physiotherapy means the impact on the cause of the disease with the help of special equipment - electrophoresis, electrical tissue stimulation. The use of low-frequency currents improves blood circulation in the affected areas, relieves swelling and pain, and at the same time, increases the effectiveness of medication.

The minimum course of hardware treatment is 10 sessions.

Massage for cervical osteochondrosis at home

Manual therapy is a productive way of influencing the affected areas at home. With the help of massage pinching, muscle spasms and pains are eliminated, blood circulation improves, compression of nerve roots is reduced.

Thanks to the massage, the metabolism improves and the tissues of the spine are restored.

Physiotherapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

The best method of restoring the functionality of the organs of the musculoskeletal system and preventing relapse is physiotherapy exercises for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine. The procedures are prescribed after complete relief of pain and inflammation.

The main types of exercise therapy:

  • physiotherapy;
  • dosed walking;
  • training on simulators;
  • swimming.

In order for exercises for cervical osteochondrosis to bring the expected results, classes should be supervised by competent specialists.

Folk remedies

Complete elimination of cervical osteochondrosis using traditional medicine methods is impossible. On the other hand, the use of folk remedies can improve the patient's condition, relieve inflammation, reduce pain and strengthen the immune system.

On average, the treatment period for cervical osteochondrosis takes up to three months. If conservative treatment has not brought the expected results, surgical intervention is used.

Why is cervical osteochondrosis dangerous?

Pathologies in the neck area pose a serious threat to all human health. Since the neck connects the head to the body, all important biological communications are located in this part of the spine - arteries that feed the brain, nerve channels.

Any changes in the functionality of the cervical spine entail consequences in the form of:

  • circulatory and nutritional disorders of the brain. As a result, hypertension develops, pathologies of the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system, VSD, impaired coordination, problems with hearing, vision and speech;
  • vertebral artery syndrome. Pathology develops against the background of compression of the vessel that feeds the cerebellum and the medulla oblongata. The development of cervical osteochondrosis can cause ischemia and stroke;
  • radiculopathy - damage to the nerve roots, growth of bone tissue on the vertebrae, as a result of which there is a partial or complete loss of mobility.

Compression of the spinal cord, which is located inside the spine, is most dangerous. Such a pathology leads to rupture of the lining of the spinal cord and causes paralysis. In severe cases, cervical osteochondrosis is fatal.


Even after complete recovery, the disease can return again if the patient does not reconsider his lifestyle - work and rest, habits, nutrition.

As a preventive measure, neurologists recommend paying attention to the following points:

  • hardness of the mattress. An orthopedic mattress and a low pillow are ideal;
  • a visit to the sauna is necessary for complete relaxation and relieving muscle spasms;
  • a daily hot shower is a good way to improve blood circulation in the neck;
  • swimming, walking, stimulates blood circulation, strengthens the muscles of the spine;
  • proper nutrition - rejection of foods that slow down metabolism: fatty, fried, sweet, smoked, flour and alcohol. Dishes with gelatin, dairy products, nuts, vegetables, white meat, seafood are recommended.

In everyday life, you should avoid strenuous physical activity, sharp turns of the head, prolonged sitting or being in a static position. In addition, it is advisable to use chairs that provide head and back support.

An active lifestyle, healthy eating and morning exercises are simple but effective ways to avoid most diseases and live a long life without pain and discomfort.