Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine: signs and treatment

It has been written and said many times that osteochondrosis of the cervical, cervicothoracic and lumbar spine is not a disease in itself. This is, if you will, our "curse of the species. " Man, as a biological species, moves on two legs for only a few million years, or even less. This, from the point of view of evolution, is still the "middle of the road". It is not known which new anatomical variants of the development of the spine we will reach in a million years.

Currently, osteochondrosis is the most common disease of the musculoskeletal system, which is faced by doctors of various specialties. These are most often therapists and neurologists, because with the complication of osteochondrosis, various neurological syndromes can occur, which will be discussed below.

Osteochondrosis - what is it?

neck pain with osteochondrosis photo 1

The words "osteochondrosis is common" should not be uttered because it is not true. Osteochondrosis in its purest form is a process of normal aging and dehydration of the intervertebral discs, which in the normal course does not cause any problems. This is possible with strong older people who are mobile, have good posture and are not overweight. They do gymnastics, swim, avoid lifting heavy loads and lead what can be called a "healthy lifestyle".

If we talk about osteochondrosis of any part of the spine, as a disease, then we always think of its complicated course, which causes various ailments and symptoms. And in this case, the cervical spine is more vulnerable than other, basic departments. Of course, the cervical region has the least load - only the head, but at the same time, the vertebrae of the cervical region are more mobile than others, and at the same time they are less massive.

All this makes the lesions of the cervical region with complications of osteochondrosis more pronounced. The proximity of the head leads to headaches, which, of course, does not happen with lesions of the lumbar region. In addition, it should be borne in mind that the spinal cord passes through the central canal of the cervical vertebrae, which has absorbed all the basic pathways. Therefore, with central canal compression syndrome, the patient can get paralysis of the arms and legs, up to complete immobility, reduced sensitivity of the skin throughout the body and dysfunction of the pelvic organs. All this can make a person disabled at this time, for example, with a fracture of the cervical vertebrae (diving on the head in unknown small places).

Of course, such complex injuries are not associated with osteochondrosis: patients are much more likely to suffer from other symptoms. How to treat and cure osteochondrosis of the cervical spine? It is impossible to cure. To do this, from childhood simply refuse to move on two legs, crawl on all fours or live in the ocean, like a dolphin. Only then will the load on the intervertebral discs be minimal, or even completely absent.

Only exacerbations of osteochondrosis can be cured, and for that you need to know not only their signs and symptoms, but also risk factors.

About risk factors

In the case of the cervical spine, obviously, lifting weights on the shoulder will not play such an important role in the development of the pain syndrome as in the lower back. What conditions and diseases can contribute to the development of symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis? Here are the most common situations:

  • Flat feet, longitudinal and transverse. The spine is a flexible, curved rod. In the event that the arch of the foot is not muffled, and during the step there is no "elastic" movement of the spine downwards, but a blow, then this blow is lifted by a "wave", like a whip, and is extinguished in the cervical region, onsite of craniovertebral transition. That's where all the energy goes. Therefore, running with flat feet leads to pronounced changes in the intervertebral discs.
  • Chronic injuries. These are, above all, skating on ice in winter, falling on the back of the head, as well as constantly banging your head on a low door, which is often found in people whose height is above average.
  • Wearing heavy winter hats, high hairstyles and an abundance of women’s jewelry. All this leads to fatigue of the neck muscles, the appearance of their chronic spasm, circulatory disorders, and the development of headaches and back pain.
  • Sedentary lifestyle, "sitting" work, the presence of stiffness in the upper thoracic and cervical spine.

We will not list specific risk factors that occur in diseased patients. The reasons for the worsening of the condition found in ordinary, healthy people are quite sufficient.

Symptoms and signs of osteochondrosis

neck pain with osteochondrosis photo 2

The signs of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine are very diverse. Few doctors even know that general abdominal prolapse (splanchnoptosis) or liver prolapse, which is often misdiagnosed as an enlargement, can be the result of osteochondrosis of the cervical region. In this case, the phrenic nerve is irritated and the dome of the diaphragm shrinks and falls.

As a result, the liver is "pushed out" of the hypochondria. But there are other, "more common" symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis - pain and muscle tension. We will not talk about the symptoms of hernia and protrusions of the cervical spine - a special article is dedicated to this. Let’s talk about the clinic that occurs with "whole" intervertebral discs, especially since such situations are much more common.

Cervical osteochondrosis causes pain in the neck itself. Muscle aches are manifested by constant, aching pains of low intensity. It is aggravated by turning and tilting the head. Often accompanied by stiffness in the suboccipital region.

Headaches in osteochondrosis of the cervical region are almost always by nature tension headaches. The attack lasts for many hours and even days in a row. The pain rises from the neck through the nape of the neck to the temples and covers the skull like a helmet or helmet. With this pain, the ability to work does not suffer, but if it is accompanied by radicular symptoms, then they acquire the character of a shot, and moving the head becomes very painful.

Vertebral artery syndrome.

Speaking of cervical osteochondrosis, we cannot fail to mention this classic manifestation of cerebrovascular insufficiency caused by cervical osteochondrosis. Its symptoms are vomiting and nausea, dizziness and imbalance. There is noise in the head and ears (tinnitus), in severe cases there is a speech disorder (dysarthria), swallowing disorders. Various visual disturbances ("flies"), headaches occur much more often. Sometimes there are seizures, during which the person does not lose consciousness, but falls and then gets up quickly.

Compression of one of the two vertebral arteries may occur during sleep. In case a person simultaneously throws his head back and turns it to one side, then the vertebral artery is pressed on the first vertebra - the atlas contralaterally, ie on the opposite side.

If you lie like that for a while, then in the morning, when you try to get out of bed, there is severe dizziness, nausea, vomiting, gait disturbance and balance. In some cases, "higher order" disorders also develop - for example, global transient amnesia, in which the patient simply does not remember anything.

There are also a number of neurological syndromes and symptoms, which we will only briefly list, indicating their reference diagnostic points, so that the reader of the article can imagine and "try" these symptoms if he cannot reach a neurologist:

  • Lower oblique head muscle syndrome (often occurs in patients older than 50, especially in postmenopausal women). There are pains, sensitivity disorders in the back of the head, next to the earlobe. The pain is painful, of a fracture character, both in the neck and in the back of the head, constant, and its intensification is associated with prolonged immobility. It is increased by turning the head to the side that is healthy;
  • Scalenus anterior syndrome - manifests itself in patients with additional "cervical ribs".

Sensitivity disorders and "creeping" in the hand, its pallor and coldness, sometimes swelling of the hand, weakness, hypotrophy of the hand muscles, as well as weakening of the pulse in the wrist. In severe cases, progressive paralysis or paresis of the hand muscles may occur. to drive a car, sleep on the painful side, cannot lift weights, and also work with raised arms (hang curtains, plastering) There are also complaints of stiffness and neck pain, forced head position in the morning.

  • Middle scapular muscle syndrome. First there is pain in the shoulder, in the area of the shoulder blade, and then there begins the hypotrophy of the muscles. The mechanism is associated with damage to the long trunk nerve and the transverse artery of the neck;
  • Shoulder-costal syndrome (levator levator muscle syndrome that raises the shoulder blade). First there is pain, in the area of the shoulder blade, which "buzzes". They give in the shoulder, there is also pain in the neck, which often hurts "on time". Crunching is usually heard when moving the blade.

Thus, it is clear that many processes that began in the neck or in the immediate vicinity of its structures appear "on the periphery", for example, in the area of the hand. This requires a thoughtful and competent approach by the doctor. Currently, the diagnosis of osteochondrosis complications has become much simpler, especially with the introduction of MRI into clinical practice.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

Modern therapy of cervical pain of vertebrogenic origin and associated compression and muscle syndromes envisages short courses of medication. Treatment of exacerbations of osteochondrosis of the cervical region quickly passes into the phase of disappearance of exacerbation, against which the main methods of treatment are kinesiotherapy and physiotherapy.

Ointments and drugs for exacerbation

As you know, "injections", fats, and even blockages are not canceled. But the neck is the focus of a large number of nerves, blood vessels, autonomic fibers, fascia. Therefore, blockades are performed less frequently here than in acute back or lower back pain. In addition, the thin skin on the neck allows gels, creams and ointments to be absorbed faster than in the lumbar spine.

Of the drugs used are injectable forms of NSAIDs, preferably selective, centrally acting muscle relaxants, B vitamins.

It must be borne in mind that if NSAIDs are used, then it is necessary to protect the gastrointestinal mucosa by using antisecretory drugs during treatment.

As for local treatment, there are currently many ointments, gels and creams that contain NSAIDs, bee and snake venom, as well as agents that cool and relieve pain. The main thing is not to use very hot fats. They can cause an increase in blood pressure, redness of the face, and even a hypertensive crisis in old age. Ointment treatment is preferably carried out prophylactically, without waiting for the next deterioration.

About the Shants collar

In the early stages, in the acute phase, it is necessary to protect the neck from unnecessary movements. Shants collar is great for this. Many people make two mistakes when buying this collar. They do not choose it according to size, which is why it simply does not fulfill its function and causes a feeling of discomfort.

Another common mistake is to wear it for long-term prophylactic purposes. This leads to weakness in the neck muscles and only causes even more problems. There are only two indications for a collar, in the presence of which it can be worn:

  • Occurrence of acute neck pain, stiffness and spread of headache;
  • If you are going to do physical work in full health, where there is a danger that you will "pull" by the neck and get worse. This is, for example, repairing a car when you lie down under it or washing a window when you need to reach out and take an awkward position.

The necklace should be worn for no longer than 2-3 days, as wearing it for longer can cause venous congestion in the neck muscles, at a time when it is time to activate the patient.

Patient activation

Kinesiotherapy (movement therapy) includes therapeutic exercises, swimming. Gymnastics for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is not focused on the discs at all, but on the surrounding muscles. Its task is to alleviate tonic spasm, improve blood flow, and also normalize venous outflow. This is what leads to a decrease in muscle tone, a decrease in the intensity of pain and stiffness in the back.

In addition to massage, swimming, acupuncture sessions, the purchase of an orthopedic mattress and a special pillow is indicated. The pillow for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine should be made of a special material with "shape memory". Its task is to relax the muscles of the neck and suboccipital region, as well as to prevent disturbance of blood flow at night in the vertebrobasilar pool.

Autumn is an important phase in the prevention and treatment of home physiotherapy products and devices - from infrared and magnetic devices, to the most common needle applicators and ebonite discs, which are a source of weak electric currents during massage that have a beneficial effect on the patient.

What's next?

Statistics show that the situation with diseases of the musculoskeletal system is much better among the people of the Mediterranean, who often swim in the sea at any age.

However, the basis for the prevention of osteochondrosis, in addition to eliminating risk factors, it is necessary to set a healthy diet, which is based on sour milk, plant foods, seafood, fiber and plenty of fluids. This will slow down the aging process of dehydration of the intervertebral discs, and maintain a healthy neck and back until the most advanced years.