Osteochondrosis is understood as a degenerative disease of the intervertebral cartilage layers. Today, this problem has taken on a global dimension.
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 around the age of fifty, now it is impossible not to notice that the disease has significantly rejuvenated - the average age threshold here isfell to 24 years old.
But more and more often 18-year-olds come to hospitals with this problem. Speaking of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, the symptoms and treatment cannot be ignored, as these issues are of great interest.
How does osteochondrosis of the cervical spine develop - causes and first signs?
Everyone knows that the spine is formed by bony vertebrae, between which there are cartilaginous "cushions" - intervertebral discs. Due to impaired blood circulation and poor nutrition, the cartilage tissue here does not receive a complex of nutrients. This leads to a change in the structure of cartilage, its deformation and narrowing. They gradually lose their old elasticity, become less durable.
As the shock-absorbing intervertebral layers dry out, the vertebrae press together. As a result, nerve endings and blood lines are compressed, causing pain and numbness in the muscles, migraines, and a number of other symptoms. Over time, the cartilage tissue is destroyed, turns into fibrous tissue. Gradually, adjacent vessels, nerve fibers and bone structures are involved in this pathological process.
The main factors of the development of cervical osteochondrosis
The main reason for the development of osteochondrotic pathologies is considered degenerative-dystrophic changes. A number of factors contribute to this. Consider the main reasons for the appearance of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine:
- Congenital predisposition.
- Aging of the body.
- Disturbances of 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 job, when you have to work in an uncomfortable position, make jerky muscular efforts.
- The end of a sports career and the cessation / reduction of the power loads that result from it.
- 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, too soft a bed, untrained back and waist muscles of the upper limbs, and inadequate nutrition create an ideal combination for thedevelopment of cervical osteochondrosis.
Osteochondrosis does not come on suddenly. It develops gradually over a fairly long period - from several years to several decades. The initial dystrophic changes in the spinal layers are not manifested 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 in certain muscle areas may appear. Over time, a protrusion develops, hernias are possible. The patient suffers from headaches and muscle pain.
At the last stage of disease progression, bone tissue pathologically grows, nerve endings are damaged, and chronic pain syndrome develops. Due to cervical osteochondrosis, there may be curvature of the upper spine, sciatica, stenosis (narrowing of the lumen of the spinal canal).
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine - symptoms and treatment
We looked at 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 of the neck, shoulders and upper back.
- Feelings of tightness, pain in the dorsal and cervical region.
- Painful sensations can be given to the hands.
- Headache, especially in the occipital region, migraines.
- Dizziness, tinnitus, visual abnormalities (defocusing, appearance of "flies" and colored spots).
- Regular numbness in the toes of the upper limbs.
- Stiffness of head movements, limitation of rotation and inclination, all accompanied by pain and sensations of traction.
- Pain on palpation of the vertebral area.
- A tendency to increase blood pressure.
Due to muscle weakness, coordination of movement may be impaired. In the presence of heart problems, they can be made worse by a spasm of the vertebral artery. The pain can spread to the breastbone and the retrosternal space.
As you can see, the symptoms are varied. This leads to the fact that people, identifying some deviations in themselves, seek help from the wrong specialist (cardiologist, orthopedist, traumatologist). This complicates the diagnosis and rapid detection of cervical osteochondrosis.
Which doctor should I contact for osteochondrosis?
If a complex of the described symptoms of osteochondrosis appears, you should immediately consult a doctor. You need to make an appointment with a therapist or neurologist. After the initial clarification of the clinical picture as a result of the investigation, examination of the patient and palpation of the affected area, the doctor will give a referral for tests and order an additional examination.
You may need to go through:
- Computed tomography.
The x-ray will help determine the location of the lesions and the degree of neglect of the disease. Tomographic examination will help assess the condition of adjacent tissues and myography - the conductivity of muscle fibers and their innervation. All this will make it possible to correctly diagnose and define an effective treatment regimen. The process will be long, requiring patience and hard work.
It will not be possible to completely restore cartilage structures, but significantly improving the quality of life and getting rid of chronic pain is quite a feasible task. You will have to return to the exams more than once.
After all, it will be necessary to monitor the course of the disease, adjust the treatment program, predict complications or possible improvements. Therefore, even if the pain has receded, this is not a reason to refuse to perform repeated diagnostic measures.
How to deal with osteochondrosis of the neck?
In order for the disease to be free, a whole range of different methods must be used. In most cases, active treatment takes several months. But here a lot depends on the enthusiasm, conscience and will of the patient. In some cases, surgery is necessary. When starting treatment, you should adhere to the following principles.
- Medical advice should be followed relentlessly. All changes in condition and side effects should be reported to the attending physician.
- You need to learn how to dose the load, avoid excessive muscle activity and muscle overload 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 done systematically, and preferably daily. Special gymnastics for the neck should be chosen individually, taking into account the abilities of the patient and the degree of neglect of the disease. A series of exercises is performed under the guidance of an instructor.
- The use of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs must be justified and strictly dosed. All drugs, especially hormonal drugs, are prescribed by a doctor.
- It is important to maintain an anatomically correct position of the body. Even in a dream. Therefore, the mattress must be sufficiently firm. With an orthopedic pillow, they are determined by the direct fit method.
- If necessary, you need to sit for a long time regularly, with an interval of a few hours, perform a short warm-up for the neck. It is advisable to stand up at the same time, although a seated position is also allowed.
Why do you need to warm up?
This simple method will allow you to:
- restore normal blood circulation;
- stretch stiff muscles;
- get rid of numbness, tingling, tightness sensations;
- relieve muscle tension;
- prevent muscle spasms and muscle groups;
- avoid overloading the cervical spine.
All the exercises are as simple as possible. They are familiar to everyone from childhood and do not take much time. A few minutes will suffice. They can be performed at home and in the workplace. Are you ashamed of the opinions of tactless employees?
Retire down the stairs or into a toilet cubicle. You may even be able to do carrying exercises discreetly, avoiding unnecessary attention. All exercises should be done with the back straight. It is recommended to widen the shoulders and protrude a little from the chest. Make as many turns as possible with your head to the sides.
Act with caution and without fanaticism so as not to harm the weakened spine. After that, lower your head several times alternately on one or the other shoulder. You can now perform multiple rotational movements - 10-15 in each direction.
Another good exercise. Stretch your spine as much as possible, as if you are hanging from the top 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 reverse 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 can hear a crackling sound.
Have no fear - these are the vertebrae in place. After that, relief is usually felt. To relieve the tension in the trapezius muscle, you need to raise your shoulders as much as possible, and then forcefully lower them as low as possible. Actions are performed multiple times. Then move your shoulders and squeeze your hands.
For cervical osteochondrosis, several types of drugs are used. These drugs are used during times of exacerbation of the disease. They are designed to solve a number of tasks:
- elimination of pain;
- fight inflammation;
- strengthening of metabolic processes in affected tissues.
In addition, drugs are used, including hormonal and vitamin preparations, which stimulate the restoration of cartilage tissue.
Other pain management methods
In addition to exercise therapy and drugs, the following methods of action are included in the complex of measures to get rid of manifestations of osteochondrosis of the cervical area.
- Increased intervertebral spaces due to stretching of the spine. For this, a metered load is applicable. The impact is done in different ways, including using special tables. This measurement allows you to bring the spine back to its previous length, give it the correct shape and release the 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 a professional with medical training is involved.
- Massage also gives good results. This procedure helps to disperse blood, improve nutrition and gas exchange of cartilage tissue, relieve muscle tension and 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 neck yourself. Rub, knead, light pressure is used. Acupressure massage is effective when the impact is on 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 introduction has a local effect, improves their effectiveness and avoids a number of side effects. Physical procedures help to combat pain, inflammation, speed up post-traumatic and postoperative rehabilitation.
- Acupuncture, like manual therapy, improves or inhibits various processes in the body by acting on so-called biologically active points in the body. Reflexology allows you to correct metabolism, increase blood flow, relieve pain. But despite its effectiveness, this method is not suitable for everyone, since it involves the use of needles, which some patients categorically do not accept.
The greatest effectiveness of these measures is achieved when 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.