Osteochondrosis is understood as a degenerative disease of the intervertebral cartilage layers. Today this problem has taken on a global scale.
In Europe alone, about 60% of adults suffer from cervical osteochondrosis. Doctors associate this fact with the static nature of people, their low mobility and a sedentary type of work.
If not so long ago this disease developed somewhere around the age of fifty, now it is impossible not to notice that the disease has significantly rejuvenated - the average age threshold here has dropped to 24 years.
But more and more often, 18-year-old youth come to hospitals with this problem. Speaking about osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, symptoms and treatment cannot be ignored, because these questions are of interest to many.
How does osteochondrosis of the cervical spine develop - causes and first signs?
Everyone knows that the spinal column is formed by bony vertebrae, between which there are cartilaginous "cushions" - intervertebral discs. Due to impaired blood flow and poor-quality nutrition, the cartilage tissue does not receive a complex of nutrients here. This leads to a change in the structure of the cartilage, their deformation and shrinkage. They gradually lose their former elasticity, become less durable.
Since the shock-absorbing intervertebral layers dry out, the vertebrae press on each other. As a result, nerve endings and blood lines are squeezed, which causes pain and numbness in the muscles, migraines, and a number of other symptoms. Over time, the cartilaginous tissue is destroyed, turns into fibrous tissue. Gradually, adjacent vessels, nerve fibers, and bone structures are involved in this pathological process.
The main factors in the development of cervical osteochondrosis
The main reason for the development of osteochondrotic pathologies is considered to be degenerative-dystrophic changes. There are a number of factors that contribute to this. Consider the main reasons for the appearance of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine:
- Congenital predisposition.
- Aging of the body.
- Disruptions in metabolic processes.
- Overweight, obesity.
- Errors in the diet - a lack of mineral compounds and a systematic lack of fluid.
- Traumatic injury.
- Weakened skeletal muscles, poor posture, flat feet.
- Physical inactivity, sedentary work.
- Physical overload, the specifics of the profession, when you have to work in an uncomfortable position, make jerky muscle efforts.
- The end of a sports career and the related termination / reduction of power loads.
- Psycho-emotional stress.
- Nicotine addiction.
- The appearance of tumor structures.
It should be noted that the causes of pathological chondrotic changes in the cervical spine have not been sufficiently studied to date. But it is reliably known that a long stay in a standing or sitting position without much movement, an overly soft bed, untrained muscles of the back and girdle of the upper extremities, and inadequate nutrition create an ideal combination for the development of cervical osteochondrosis.
Osteochondrosis does not appear suddenly. It develops gradually over a fairly long time - from several years to decades. The initial dystrophic changes in the vertebral layers do not show themselves in any way. They can only be detected by chance on an X-ray or during a CT scan.
At the next stage of the development of the disease, a decrease in the thickness of the cartilage layer is observed. Microscopic cracks appear on the intervertebral cartilage. Numbness of certain areas of the muscles may appear. Over time, protrusion develops, hernias are possible. The patient suffers from headaches and muscle pains.
At the last stage of the progression of the disease, bone tissue grows pathologically, nerve endings are damaged and chronic pain syndrome develops. Due to cervical osteochondrosis, there may be a curvature of the upper spine, sciatica, stenosis (narrowing of the lumen of the spinal canal).
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine - symptoms and treatment
We examined the first signs of osteochondrosis, now let's talk directly about the symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis.
For cervical osteochondrosis, the following symptoms are characteristic:
- Numbness and spasm of the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
- Pulling sensations, pain in the dorsal and cervical area.
- Painful sensations can be given to the hands.
- Headaches, especially in the occipital region, migraines.
- Dizziness, tinnitus, visual abnormalities (defocusing, the appearance of "flies" and colored spots).
- Regular numbness in the toes of the upper extremities.
- Stiffness in head movements, limitation of turning and tilting, all accompanied by pain and pulling sensations.
- Soreness on palpation of the vertebral zone.
- A tendency to increase blood pressure.
Due to muscle weakness, there may be impaired coordination of movements. In the presence of cardiac problems, they may be aggravated due to spasm of the vertebral artery. The pain can spread to the sternum and retrosternal space.
As you can see, the symptoms are varied. This leads to the fact that people, identifying certain deviations in themselves, seek help from the wrong specialist (cardiologist, orthopedist, traumatologist). This complicates the diagnosis and timely detection of cervical osteochondrosis.
Which doctor should I contact for osteochondrosis?
If a complex of the described symptoms of osteochondrosis appears, you should immediately seek medical help. You need to get an appointment with a therapist or neurologist. After the initial clarification of the clinical picture as a result of the survey, examination of the patient and palpation of the affected area, the doctor will give a referral for tests and prescribe an additional examination.
You may need to go through:
- Computed tomography.
Radiography will help determine the location of the lesions and the degree of neglect of the disease. Tomographic examination will help to assess the state of adjacent tissues, and myography - the conductivity of muscle fibers and their innervation. All this will make it possible to correctly diagnose and outline an effective treatment regimen. The process will be long, requiring patience and work on yourself.
It will not be possible to completely restore the cartilaginous structures, but significantly improving the quality of life and getting rid of chronic pain is a completely doable task. You will have to return to examinations more than once.
After all, it will be necessary to monitor the course of the disease, adjust the treatment program, predict possible complications or improvements. Therefore, even if the pain has receded, this is not a reason to refuse to carry out repeated diagnostic measures.
How to deal with osteochondrosis of the neck?
In order for the disease to release, a whole range of different methods should be used. In most cases, active treatment takes several months. But here a lot depends on the patient's enthusiasm, conscientiousness and willpower. In some cases, surgery is required. When starting treatment, you must adhere to the following principles.
- Medical advice should be followed unswervingly. All changes in condition and adverse reactions should be reported to the attending physician.
- You need to learn how to dose the load, avoid excessive muscle activity and muscular overstrain of the cervical spine.
- It is necessary to give up sports overload, and, if necessary, change jobs.
- Physiotherapy exercises are a prerequisite. They should be carried out systematically, and preferably daily. Special gymnastics for the neck should be selected individually, taking into account the patient's capabilities and the degree of neglect of the disease. A set of exercises is performed under the guidance of an instructor.
- The use of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs should be justified and strictly dosed. All medications, especially hormonal ones, are prescribed by a doctor.
- Maintaining anatomically correct body position is important. Even in a dream. Therefore, the mattress must be sufficiently firm. With an orthopedic pillow, they are determined by the direct fitting method.
- If necessary, you should sit for a long time regularly, with an interval of a couple of hours, carry out a short warm-up for the neck. It is advisable to get up at the same time, although a sitting position is also allowed.
Why do you need to warm up?
This simple method will allow you to:
- restore normal blood flow;
- stretch stiff muscles;
- get rid of numbness, tingling, pulling sensations;
- relieve muscle tension;
- prevent muscle spasm and muscle groups;
- avoid overloading the cervical spine.
All exercises are as simple as possible. They are familiar to everyone from childhood and do not take much time. A few minutes will be enough. They can be performed both at home and in the workplace. Are you ashamed of the views of tactless employees?
Retire on the stairs or in a toilet stall. You may even be able to discreetly do exercises in transport, avoiding unnecessary attention. All exercises should be done with your back straight. It is recommended to expand the shoulders and protrude the chest a little. Make the maximum permissible turns with your head to the sides.
Act carefully and without fanaticism so as not to harm the weakened spine. After that, several times alternately lower your head to one or the other shoulder. Now you can perform several rotational movements - 10-15 in each direction.
Another good exercise. Stretch your spine up as much as possible, as if you were hung by the crown of your head. Now slowly tilt your head forward, trying to press the edge of your chin against your chest. Then you need to slowly and very carefully perform the opposite action. In the presence of some damage, you cannot tilt your head back! Please consult your doctor.
The order in which the exercises are performed does not matter. The set of actions and the number of repetitions are selected individually. While stretching your neck, do not forget about the chest. They are closely related. It is recommended to try to bring the shoulder blades together from time to time. You may hear a crunching sound.
Do not be afraid - these are the vertebrae in place. After that, relief is usually felt. To relieve tension in the trapezius muscle, you should raise your shoulders as much as possible, and then forcefully lower them as low as possible. Actions are performed several times. Then move your shoulders and shake your hands.
For cervical osteochondrosis, several types of medications are used. These medicines are used during periods of exacerbation of the disease. They are designed to solve a number of tasks:
- elimination of pain;
- fighting inflammation;
- strengthening of metabolic processes in the affected tissues.
Also, drugs are used, including hormonal and vitamin preparations, which stimulate the restoration of cartilage tissue.
Other methods of dealing with pain
In addition to exercise therapy and medicines, the following methods of action are included in the complex of measures to get rid of the manifestations of osteochondrosis of the cervical zone.
- Increase in intervertebral spaces due to stretching of the spinal column. For this, a dosed load is applicable. The impact is carried out in different ways, including using special tables. This measure allows you to return the spine to its previous length, give it the correct shape, and release pinched nerves. Some patients, desperate to find an effective way to get rid of chronic pain, turn to bone setters. Here the spine is attacked. This method can help, provided that a professional with a medical education is involved.
- The massage also gives good results. This procedure helps to accelerate the blood, improve the nutrition and gas exchange of the cartilage tissue, relieve tension and muscle clamps, and relieve pain. If possible, you should also resort to self-massage. But you need to act competently, having passed the appropriate instructions. You can massage your neck, shoulders, scalp, arms, and collar area on your own. Rubbing, kneading, slight pressure is used. Acupressure massage is effective when the impact is made on the active points of the body. But this requires special knowledge and considerable experience. Therefore, only a professional chiropractor should be consulted.
- Physiotherapy involves the use of various means: magnetic field, laser, ultrasound, low-frequency current. Medicines are often used here. This method of their introduction has a local effect, enhances their effectiveness, and avoids a number of side effects. Physical procedures help fight pain, inflammation, accelerate post-traumatic and postoperative rehabilitation.
- Acupuncture, like manual therapy, enhances or inhibits various processes in the body by acting on the so-called biologically active points on the body. Reflexology allows you to correct metabolism, increase blood flow, relieve pain. But despite its effectiveness, this method is not suitable for everyone, because it involves the use of needles, which some patients categorically do not accept.
The greatest efficiency of these measures is achieved when they are used in a single complex under medical supervision. To a large extent, the success of therapy depends on the patient's commitment and desire to cope with osteochondrosis.