Cervical osteochondrosis: symptoms, what threatens, consequences

the main symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis

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

Several decades ago, it was believed that this is a problem mainly for people of age, but now cervical osteochondrosis is "younger". This means that he can pester 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

It represents degenerative-dystrophic changes in the intervertebral discs. Cervical osteochondrosis is accompanied by their damage, a decrease in their height, as well as damage to the joints and vertebrae of this area.

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

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine develops in several stages:

  • At the first stage, the core of the pulp 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-cartilaginous tissues is launched;
  • The second stage is characterized by prolapse of the vertebrae, resulting in sagging muscles and ligaments;
  • At the third stage, the protrusion of the contents of the discs becomes pronounced, hernias are formed. At this stage, damage to muscles and cervical vessels often occurs;
  • Increased mobility of the vertebrae provokes the body to respond - to ensure the functionality of this section 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 of this part of the spine, it becomes more and more difficult to perform its functions, and the person experiences tangible discomfort.

Syndromes and symptoms of osteochondrosis

The main signs of the disease:

  • Pain in the 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 thoracic region, it is possible that cervicothoracic osteochondrosis develops. In this case, it can be either sharp and short-lived, but regularly occurring, or mildly expressed, but long-term (do not recede for several weeks);
  • Headaches are often a symptom of the disease;
  • Dizziness. They, like the previous symptom, appear due to the fact that the artery that supplies the brain with nutrients and oxygen is compressed. For the same reason, the patient often feels general weakness, gets tired quickly even with minor physical and mental stress;
  • Feeling of weakness in the arms. This symptom of cervical osteochondrosis makes itself 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 altogether;
  • Stiffness of the upper back, chest region, pulling sensations;
  • Discomfort when turning the head. Many patients are unable to fully move her. They are usually accompanied by a crunch that appears as a result of structural changes in the intervertebral discs;
  • Deterioration of vision, hearing. Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, these symptoms are manifested due to insufficient blood supply to the cerebellum. They usually make themselves felt at the last stages of the development of the disease.

Pathology is accompanied by a number of syndromes:

  • Radicular. It is accompanied by pain in the shoulder blades, in the shoulders, and arises from pinching of the nerves in the neck;
  • Vertebrate. Its main symptoms are headaches, which spread primarily to the occipital, temporal regions;
  • Reflective. This syndrome is accompanied by severe pain, discomfort in the neck. In many patients, these symptoms become more pronounced with head movements. Often they give to the chest, shoulders;
  • Cardinal. The syndrome is accompanied by discomfort in the region of the heart. Its manifestations are similar to those of angina pectoris, and it is sometimes difficult to differentiate these conditions.

The main causes of the development of the disease

how osteochondrosis of the cervical spine manifests itself

Age-related changes in the body do not go unnoticed for the musculoskeletal system. The older a person becomes, the more pronounced the mineral imbalance becomes, the loss of moisture in tissues. All this serves as the 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 provocateurs, among which the most frequent are:

  • Incorrect posture;
  • Excessive weight, which puts enormous stress on the spine. In addition, it is usually the cause of metabolic disturbances, due to which the bone and cartilage tissues wear out faster;
  • Long-term physical activity, weight lifting;
  • A 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;
  • The 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 conditions of the nervous system.


If symptoms appear, see an orthopedist or traumatologist. The patient complaint specialist can immediately suspect which disease they are associated with.

But 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 study allows you to detect formations that form during the course of the disease, tissue deformation, displacement of discs;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging.Thanks to this diagnostic method, it is possible to analyze the condition of tissues, identify hernias and even establish their size, which is important for determining the stage of development of 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 it;
  • Electromyography.This technique allows you to establish the consequences of the course of the disease. Thanks to her, nerve conduction is determined. In the case of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, it is significantly reduced, 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 are obstructing it, if any.

Methods of treating osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

methods of treating cervical osteochondrosis

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

The main therapies are:

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

Effective additional measures are massage, properly organized exercises for cervical osteochondrosis, proper nutrition, excluding food leading to weight gain. At the same time, food should saturate the body with useful substances and minerals. It is not necessary to fast for life, you just need to correctly compose your diet, regulate the amount of food consumed.


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

The most commonly used physiotherapy treatments:

  • Laser therapy.The part of the spine affected by the lesion is exposed to the light flux. It has a healing, anti-inflammatory effect, helps to eliminate pain;
  • Electrotherapy.The essence of the technique is the effect on the body of electric fields. Thanks to him, the process of treating the disease is accelerated, pains, discomfort that accompany it are weakened;
  • Magnetotherapy.This method involves the formation of a bioelectric field, which triggers the healing process at the level of the organism itself;
  • Shockwave therapy.If cervical osteochondrosis is detected, treatment with this method involves the delivery of an acoustic wave. It helps to normalize metabolic processes, blood flow, recovery processes. This method allows you to eliminate pain;
  • Ultraviolet radiation. High-frequency sounds are communicated to the body, which have analgesic, anti-inflammatory effects, promote tissue regeneration;
  • Mud therapy, balneotherapy(mineral water treatment). Both methods involve the saturation of the affected tissues with mineral, beneficial elements by taking a shower, swimming pools, bathing, applying medicinal products to the skin. Thanks to these techniques, it is possible to eliminate pain sensations, to accelerate the patient's recovery.

Conservative treatment

It primarily involves the use of medicines.

As part of how conservative methods of cervical osteochondrosis are treated, various groups of drugs are used that have different effects.

Most often it is:

  • NSAIDs(non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Thanks to them, it is possible to cope with pain, inflammatory processes that can develop in tissues, aggravating the course of the disease. Usually these drugs are prescribed in the form of gels, ointments;
  • Chondroprotectors.These are quite effective medicines designed to prevent further development of the disease. In addition, they contribute to the launch of tissue regeneration processes;
  • Analgesics.Medicines in this category are used as anti-inflammatory and pain relievers;
  • Vasodilator medicines.Thanks to them, it is possible to improve blood flow, thereby reducing the severity of pain and reducing the patient's recovery time;
  • Antispasmodics.These medications 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. He can combine medicines of different groups in order to enhance their therapeutic effect and its intensity. In some cases, the use of one category of medication is sufficient. It depends on the specific case.

Surgical Treatment

You don't always have to resort to it. Surgical intervention may be required if there is a threat of damage to the central nervous system, spinal cord, large vessels, and nerve bundles. All this can lead to very negative consequences. The need for an operation is determined only by a doctor. He also selects the type of surgical intervention, and they are like this:

  • Microdiscectomy.This surgical method is one of the most commonly used. It provides for the removal of a hernial protrusion, which presses on the vessels, nerve endings, muscle tissue located nearby;
  • Laminectomy.This is an operation to remove (full or partial) vertebral arches, ligaments, facet joints;
  • Laser nucleoplasty.The technique involves the removal of a part of the pulp nucleus in the affected area by means of a laser;
  • Endoscopic surgery.This technique is performed using an endoscope and is prescribed to remove hernias;
  • Arthrodesis.This type of surgery is used to unite several (usually two) vertebrae if they are unstable;
  • Transplantation.A bone grafting operation, by which the area between the vertebrae is filled if the intervertebral disc has been completely removed.


Disease cannot be ignored. The proliferation of tissues is fraught with 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 untreated, 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?

It is not worth delaying a visit to the doctor, because without treatment, the pathology will surely progress.

It is necessary to consult a doctor when the following symptoms have appeared and do not recede for several days:

  • Discomfort;
  • Pain in the cervical spine;
  • Increased fatigue;
  • Dizziness, headaches.

To begin with, you can visit a therapist who, according to complaints, an initial examination, will determine which specialist should be contacted 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 the impact on the affected area with the hands. It differs from massage in that, in addition to muscles, joints, bones, vertebrae, discs are worked out;
  • Hirudotherapy- fighting the disease using leeches, which, when bitten, release biologically active substances into the human body, the main of which is hirudin. It helps to cleanse blood vessels, improve their condition. Thanks to this, the blood flow is normalized, and, as a consequence, the patient's well-being improves;
  • Reflexology.The method is more popularly known as acupuncture. With its help, an effect is exerted on biologically active points in order to start the processes of healing 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 may result in a worsening of the patient's condition if they are performed incorrectly.

Can I contact a masseur?

massage for cervical osteochondrosis

If the patient has no contraindications to it, then correctly performed it will be very useful. You should not resort to it if there is pinched nerve endings. If you have overtaken cervical osteochondrosis, you decided to carry out treatment at home with the help of massage, it should be performed only by a professional with high qualifications and 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 must 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 downy 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.

Materials, the form in which they are made, allow you to simultaneously relax the cervical vertebrae and ensure their even position. They are placed not under the shoulders (because this leads to a 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 to maintain normal muscle mass in the affected area. But physical exercises for cervical osteochondrosis must be correctly composed so as not to harm when treating the disease. They should be active and relaxing. This means that they should help to 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:

  • Standing in a position where your feet are parallel to each other and shoulder-width apart, stretch your head up. At the same time, it is advisable to feel that you are being pulled upward by someone. In this position, describe 5 circles clockwise and 5 circles forgiving clockwise. The amplitude of rotation should not be large, so as not to injure the cervical vertebrae;
  • Legs are in the same position in which they were in the previous exercise. with cervical osteochondrosis. Place your hands on your stomach so that one palm covers the other. Stretch your head forward, as if you are reaching with your nose against a wall. At the same time, the shoulders must remain in place. In this position, lower your head up and down without throwing it back. While performing 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, only move your head back, not forward;
  • Sit on a chair, keeping your body straight, and just do head turns (5-6 in each direction). Do it smoothly, slowly, trying to feel every mm of the cervical spine;
  • Place your forehead on your palm. The second should resist, and you try to overcome it. You should not be too zealous - the pressure should be tangible, but not leading to pain. Do the manipulations 8-10 times, then take a break for 15-20 seconds. After a break, do the exercise again, but with a change of hand;
  • Raise your shoulders as high as possible by exhaling. Hold this position for about 10 seconds. While inhaling, relax your shoulders, and then repeat these steps 8-10 times;
  • While sitting or lying down, massage the back of the head with gentle movements with your fingertips.

These exercises for cervical osteochondrosis are also recommended for patients who develop cervicothoracic osteochondrosis.

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