Cervical osteochondrosis: symptoms, what threatens, consequences

the main symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis is one of the most common pathologies of the musculoskeletal system.

Decades ago, it was thought to be a problem mainly for the elderly, but now cervical osteochondrosis is "younger. "This means that it can annoy young people, which worries not only patients but also doctors.

Medicine is actively looking for ways to effectively combat this condition. What is this disease, how does it manifest itself, why does it develop and how to get rid of it?

Description of the disease

Represents degenerative-dystrophic changes in the intervertebral discs. Cervical osteochondrosis is accompanied by damage, reduction in height, and damage to the joints and vertebrae in this area.

In the course of human life, the spinal cartilages wear out, the amount of moisture in them, which is necessary for their normal functioning, decreases significantly. In addition, the processes of mineral metabolism in the joints and bones are disturbed. All this leads to the fact that they lose strength, the cervical area becomes unstable, its tissues become fragile. This in turn can lead to the fact that the vertebrae are displaced, intervertebral hernias often form and the disease in this area of ​​the spine progresses.

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine develops in several stages:

  • In the first stage, the pulp core is dehydrated - the inner part of the intervertebral disc, which consists of a gelatinous substance (chondrin) and a semi-liquid mass (fibers that form connective tissue). Already during this period the mechanism of destruction of bone and cartilage tissues is started;
  • The second stage is characterized by prolapse of the vertebrae, resulting in relaxation of muscles and ligaments;
  • In the third stage, the protrusion of the contents of the discs becomes pronounced, hernias form. At this stage, damage to muscles and cervical vessels often occurs;
  • Increased mobility of the vertebrae provokes the body to react - to ensure the functionality of this part of the musculoskeletal system. The result is the appearance of bone growths on the surface of the vertebrae - osteophytes. Along with these processes, fibrous tissue grows. These formations envelop this area of ​​the spine, clogging it.

With the development of the disease in this part of the spine it becomes increasingly difficult to perform its functions and a person experiences noticeable discomfort.

Syndromes and symptoms of osteochondrosis

The main signs of the disease:

  • Pain in neck, chest, upper back, shoulders. They can appear in other parts of the body. The onset of pain is due to pinching of muscles and nerve endings. If there is pain in the chest area, it is possible to develop cervicothoracic osteochondrosis. In this case, it can be either acute and short-lived, but occurring regularly, or mild but long-term (does not subside for several weeks);
  • Headache is often a symptom of the disease;
  • Dizziness. They, like the previous symptom, occur due to the fact that the artery that supplies the brain with nutrients and oxygen is compressed. For the same reason, the patient often experiences general weakness, fatigue quickly, even with mild physical and mental stress;
  • Feeling of weakness in the hands. This symptom of cervical osteochondrosis is felt due to pinching of the nerve endings that are involved in the regulation of motor activity;
  • Decrease (or increase) the sensitivity of the upper limbs. In advanced stages, the patient may stop moving them at all;
  • Stiffness of the upper back, chest area, sensation of pulling;
  • Discomfort when turning the head. Many patients cannot move it completely. They are usually accompanied by a crisis that occurs as a result of structural changes in the intervertebral discs;
  • Deterioration of vision, hearing. Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, these symptoms occur due to insufficient blood supply to the cerebellum. They are usually felt in the last stages of the disease.

The pathology is accompanied by a number of syndromes:

  • Radical. It is accompanied by pain in the shoulder blades, in the shoulders and arises from pinching of the nerves in the neck;
  • Vertebrates. Its main symptoms are headache, which spreads mainly in the occipital, temporal area;
  • Reflective. This syndrome is accompanied by severe pain, discomfort in the neck. In many patients, these symptoms become more pronounced with head movements. They often give to the chest, shoulders;
  • Cardinal. The syndrome is accompanied by discomfort in the heart area. Its manifestations are similar to those of angina pectoris and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish these conditions.

The main reasons for the development of the disease

how osteochondrosis of the cervical spine manifests itself

Age-related changes in the body do not go unnoticed by the musculoskeletal system. The older a person gets, the more pronounced the mineral imbalance, the loss of moisture in the tissues. All this serves as reasons for the development of pathology.

But cervical osteochondrosis can also show symptoms in young people and in this case the onset of the disease is associated with other provokers, among which the most common are:

  • Improper posture;
  • Overweight, which puts a lot of stress on the spine. In addition, it is usually the cause of metabolic disorders, due to which bone and cartilage tissues wear out faster;
  • Long-term physical activity, weight lifting;
  • Sedentary lifestyle, due to which a person moves a little, stagnant processes develop;
  • Disorder of the structure of the spine - congenital or acquired;
  • genetic conditioning;
  • Presence of injuries of the musculoskeletal system;
  • Diseases of an autoimmune nature, provoking degeneration of bone and cartilage tissues;
  • Frequent stress, nervous shock, other negative states of the nervous system.


If symptoms occur, see an orthopedist or traumatologist. The patient's complaints specialist can immediately suspect which disease they are related to.

However, the following diagnostic measures are usually prescribed to make an accurate diagnosis:

  • Radiography.This technique takes pictures of specific areas to study them in detail. The examination allows you to detect formations that are formed during the disease, tissue deformation, disc displacement;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging.Thanks to this diagnostic method it is possible to analyze the condition of the tissues, to identify hernias and even to determine their size, which is important for determining the stage of development of the pathology;
  • Computed tomography.This diagnostic method provides the same information as magnetic resonance therapy, but it is very difficult to determine the size of the lesions using;
  • Electromyography.This technique allows you to determine the consequences of the course of the disease. Thanks to it, nerve conduction is determined. In the case of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, it decreases significantly, which is one of the signs of pathology.

If there is a circulatory disorder, ultrasound can be used to determine its speed and detect barriers that interfere with it.

Technique for treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

methods of treating cervical osteochondrosis

First of all, the therapy is aimed at reducing pain, relieving the patient's condition. The second important goal of treatment is to prevent the progression of the disease. To solve these problems, an integrated approach is used with the participation of all available in medicine measures that can be used for a particular patient.

The main therapies are:

  • Physiotherapy;
  • Conservative treatment;
  • Surgery (if necessary).

Massage, properly organized exercises for cervical osteochondrosis, proper nutrition, with the exception of food leading to weight gain, are effective additional measures. At the same time, food should saturate the body with nutrients and minerals. You do not need to fast for life, you just need to properly compose your diet, adjust the amount of food consumed.


This method of treating cervical osteochondrosis is often used as an additional therapeutic measure that is combined with other methods. Its advantage is not only high efficiency, but also safety for the whole human body. It is not able to cause exacerbation of other pathologies of the patient.

Most commonly used physiotherapy treatments:

  • Laser therapy.The part of the spine affected by the lesion is exposed to light flux. Has a healing, anti-inflammatory effect, helps eliminate pain;
  • Electrotherapy.The essence of the technique is the impact on the body of electric fields. Thanks to him, the process of treatment of the disease is accelerated, the pain, discomfort that accompanies it, weakens;
  • Magnetotherapy.This method involves the formation of a bioelectric field, which activates the healing process at the level of the organism itself;
  • Shock wave therapy.If cervical osteochondrosis is detected, treatment with this method involves delivering an acoustic wave. Helps to normalize metabolic processes, blood flow, recovery processes. This method allows you to eliminate the pain;
  • Ultraviolet radiation.High-frequency sounds are transmitted to the body, which have analgesic, anti-inflammatory effects, promote tissue regeneration;
  • Mud treatment, balneotherapy(mineral water treatment). Both methods involve saturating the affected tissues with mineral, beneficial elements by taking showers, pools, baths, applying drugs to the skin. Thanks to these techniques it is possible to eliminate the sensations of pain, to accelerate the patient's recovery.

Conservative treatment

This mainly involves the use of drugs.

As part of the way conservative methods for cervical osteochondrosis are treated, different groups of drugs are used that have different effects.

Most often this is:

  • NSAIDs(non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Thanks to them it is possible to deal with painful sensations, inflammatory processes that can develop in the tissues, worsening the course of the disease. Usually these drugs are prescribed in the form of gels, ointments;
  • Chondroprotectors.These are quite effective drugs designed to prevent further development of the disease. In addition, they contribute to the start of tissue regeneration processes;
  • Analgesics.Drugs in this category are used as anti-inflammatory and analgesic;
  • Vasodilator drugs.Thanks to them, it is possible to improve blood flow, thus reducing the severity of pain and reducing the patient's recovery time;
  • Antispasmodics.These drugs help relieve spasm, significantly reduce the sensitivity of the nerves. Therefore, they have an analgesic effect.

Only a doctor should determine how and how to treat a disease. It can combine drugs from different groups to enhance their therapeutic effect and its intensity. In some cases, the use of one category of drugs is sufficient. It depends on the specific case.

Surgical treatment

You don't always have to resort to it. Surgery may be needed if there is a risk of damage to the central nervous system, spinal cord, large vessels and nerve bundles. All this can lead to many negative consequences. The need for surgery is determined only by a doctor. He also chooses the type of surgery and they are as follows:

  • Microdiscectomy.This surgical method is one of the most commonly used. It involves the removal of a hernial protrusion that compresses the vessels, nerve endings, muscle tissue located nearby;
  • Laminectomy.This is an operation to remove (complete or partial) spinal arches, ligaments, facet joints;
  • Laser nucleoplasty.The technique involves removing part of the pulp nucleus in the affected area using a laser;
  • Endoscopic surgery.This technique is performed using an endoscope and is prescribed to remove the hernia;
  • Arthrodesis.This type of operation is used to join several (usually two) vertebrae if they are unstable;
  • Transplantation.A bone graft operation that fills the area between the vertebrae if the intervertebral disc is completely removed.


The disease cannot be ignored. Tissue proliferation has serious consequences, including:

  • Paresis, paralysis of the hands (one or both);
  • Stroke;
  • Damage to the central nervous system;
  • Spinal cord injury;
  • Loss (partial or complete) of sight, hearing.

If the disease is severe and untreatable, the patient may even remain disabled. Other organs can also suffer from the disease - the heart, digestive system, lungs.

When should I see a doctor?

You should not delay a visit to the doctor, because without treatment the pathology will certainly progress.

It is necessary to consult a doctor when the following symptoms appear and do not subside for several days:

  • discomfort;
  • Pain in the cervical spine;
  • Increased fatigue;
  • Dizziness, headache.

As a start, you can visit a therapist who, according to the complaints, an initial examination will determine which specialist you should contact next.

Unique treatments

In the fight against this disease, not only the methods listed above are used. In search of a solution to the problem, patients also turn to unusual methods, the most popular of which are:

  • Manual therapy- a technique that involves applying to the affected area with your hands. It differs from massage in that in addition to muscles, joints, bones, vertebrae, discs are also made;
  • Hirudotherapy- fight against the disease with leeches, which when bitten release biologically active substances in the human body, the main of which is hirudin. Helps cleanse blood vessels, improve their condition. As a result, blood flow is normalized and, as a result, the patient's well-being is improved;
  • Reflexology.The method is better known as acupuncture. With its help, biologically active points are influenced in order to start the healing processes of the body at the cellular level.

If you decide to resort to such methods of therapy, you need to find an experienced, competent specialist. Otherwise, such manipulations can lead to deterioration of the patient's condition if performed incorrectly.

Can I contact a masseur?

massage for cervical osteochondrosis

If the patient has no contraindications for this, then what is done correctly will be very useful. You should not resort to it if there are pinched nerve endings. If you have anticipated cervical osteochondrosis, you decided to carry out treatment at home with the help of massage, it should be performed only by a highly qualified professional with extensive experience.

The procedures will help to normalize blood flow, start the process of tissue regeneration, improve overall health and eliminate muscle spasms. But it should be borne in mind that it is not used as the only treatment.

What is an orthopedic pillow for?

During sleep, it is important that the head, shoulders and neck are in the correct, comfortable position. Conventional fluffy soft pillows are not always able to provide this, while orthopedic options are designed in such a way that the body assumes the correct position.

The materials, the shape in which they are made, allow you to simultaneously relax the cervical vertebrae and ensure their even position. They are not placed under the shoulders (because this leads to curvature of the spine), but directly under the head. Due to their properties, orthopedic pillows serve not only to prevent various diseases of the cervical spine. Their use is an additional measure in their treatment.

Gymnastics for cervical osteochondrosis at home

One of the conditions for improving the condition is the maintenance of normal muscle mass in the affected area. But exercise for cervical osteochondrosis must be properly designed so as not to harm the treatment of the disease. They should be active and relaxing. This means that they should help strengthen the muscles, but at the same time help to improve blood flow, eliminate stagnant processes and relieve pain.

Gymnastics for cervical osteochondrosis may include the following exercises:

  • Stand in a position where your legs are parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart, stretch your head up. At the same time, it is advisable to feel that someone is pulling you up. In this position, describe 5 circles that are clockwise and 5 circles that forgive clockwise. The amplitude of rotation should not be large so as not to injure the cervical vertebrae;
  • The legs are in the same position they were in the previous exercise. with cervical osteochondrosis. Place your hands on your abdomen so that one palm covers the other. Stretch your head forward, as if reaching for a wall with your nose. At the same time, the shoulders should remain in place. In this position, lower your head up and down without throwing it back. During this exercise, with developing cervical osteochondrosis, you should not experience discomfort, pain, pulling sensations. Repeat the movements in both directions at least 10 times;
  • Perform the same manipulations as in the previous paragraph, just move your head back, not forward;
  • Sit in a chair, keeping your body upright, and just turn your heads (5-6 in each direction). Do it smoothly, slowly, trying to feel every mm of the cervical vertebrae;
  • Place your forehead on your palm. The second must resist and you try to overcome it. You should not be too zealous - the pressure should be palpable, but not painful. Do the manipulations 8-10 times, then rest for 15-20 seconds. After a break, do the exercise again, but change your arm;
  • Raise your shoulders as high as possible as you exhale. Hold this position for about 10 seconds. As you inhale, relax your shoulders and then repeat these steps 8-10 times;
  • While sitting or lying down, massage the back of your head with gentle fingertips.
These exercises for cervical osteochondrosis are also recommended for patients who develop cervicothoracic osteochondrosis.

It is necessary to prevent the disease - to eat properly, to exercise (but not traumatic), to monitor your weight. As a preventive measure, special gymnastics should be performed. You can use the set of exercises in this article.