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. The 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 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.

The disease is most often 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, most 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, and 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 - in front of the computer, driving a car, in the office;
  • Overweight;
  • great physical activity;
  • smoking;
  • malnutrition;
  • weak physical shape;
  • spinal cord injury.

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

How the disease manifests itself

At the beginning of the disease, only the tingling of the neck may indicate its development, which is usually ignored. As the pathology progresses, the number and intensity of manifestations increase.

There are typical symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis:

  • pain in the back of the head, at the base of the neck, radiating to the limbs;
  • crunch and pain when turning the head;
  • tingling or numbness in the areas between the shoulder blades and at the base of the neck, burning, discomfort and stiffness;
  • headache, migraine, dizziness;
  • weakness, fatigue.

Secondary symptoms include decreased vision, hearing, memory problems, sleep disturbances, inattention, distraction, and pressure surges.

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

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

The reflex-irritant syndrome is a consequence of compression of the vertebral artery with curvature of the neck and poor posture. Manifested in severe paroxysmal pain in the back of the head with gradual spread to the areas around the forehead.

Radicular syndrome. Observed by flattening of the spinal roots - the consequences of hernia. At the same time, the sensitivity in the affected areas decreases and motor activity becomes limited. It 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 processes is determined by the condition of the pulpal nucleus, which fills the spinal space.

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

  • first. The intervertebral disc is sealed. The hook-like growths of the vertebrae are enlarged. Muscle stiffness occurs, 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 progression of the first stage of the disease, if the treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is absent or carried out incorrectly. The intervertebral foramen narrows, the height of the intervertebral discs becomes smaller due to their flattening. Nerve root pinching occurs. The patient experiences pain of a punctual nature;
  • third. Cracks in the fibrous ring around the intervertebral disc lead to rupture of its capsule and deformation of muscle tissue. The stability of fixation of the pulpal nucleus inside the intervertebral disc is impaired. An intervertebral hernia develops. It is characterized by sharp pain in the neck, numbness of the tongue, swelling, 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 connections, teeth, facial nerve, pituitary gland, brain, parasympathetic nervous system, neck and forearm muscles, thyroid, elbow and elbow.

Diagnostic methods

Determining the exact cause of osteochondrosis allows you to focus on the disease in a targeted way. The preliminary diagnosis is made after an initial examination by a doctor.

The patient's complaints about the nature of the pain syndromes are taken into account, as well as the information obtained during the examination of the spine in different 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 abilities.

Doctors receive complete diagnostic information using such tests as:

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

In the presence of vertigo, additional examination of the structural changes of the vessels by Doppler, angiography and duplex scanning may be required.

How to treat cervical osteochondrosis?

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

Optimal results are obtained in complex therapy, including the use of several methods. The protocols adopted by the WHO include drugs, hardware procedures, healing therapy and therapeutic massage.

Medication treatment

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

Fixed assets for drug treatment:

  • anti-inflammatory drugs - pills that relieve pain and inflammation;
  • chondroprotectors - drugs that activate the regeneration of cartilage tissue;
  • external means - ointments and gels that relieve pain and inflammation;
  • 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 procedures are used to reduce discomfort and improve the results of drug treatment.


Physiotherapy means influencing the cause of the disease with the help of special equipment - electrophoresis, electrical stimulation of tissues. 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 drugs.

The minimum course of hardware treatment is 10 sessions.

Massage for cervical osteochondrosis at home

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

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

Physiotherapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

The best method for restoring the functionality of the musculoskeletal system and preventing recurrence are 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;
  • simulator training;
  • swimming.

In order for the exercises for cervical osteochondrosis to lead to the expected results, the classes must be monitored by competent specialists.

Folk remedies

Complete elimination of cervical osteochondrosis with methods of traditional medicine 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 led to the expected results, surgery is used.

Why is cervical osteochondrosis dangerous?

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

Any change in the functionality of the cervical spine leads to consequences in the form of:

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

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


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

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

  • mattress firmness. An orthopedic mattress and low pillow are ideal;
  • a visit to the sauna is necessary for complete relaxation and relief of muscle spasms;
  • a daily hot shower is a good way to improve blood circulation in the neck area;
  • swimming, walking, stimulates blood circulation, strengthens the muscles of the spine;
  • proper nutrition - rejection of foods that slow down the 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 static position. In addition, it is advisable to use chairs that provide support for the head and back.

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.