Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine


Osteochondrosis is a lesion of the intervertebral discs of a degenerative-dystrophic nature, and the cervical spine is the most vulnerable part of the spine, which has an anatomically different structure from very close adjacent vertebrae and a weak muscle corset. Therefore, even with small additional loads on the neck, displacement of the vertebrae can occur, causing compression of blood vessels and nerves.

And since the vertebral arteries involved in the blood supply to the brain pass through the holes in the transverse processes of the vertebrae in this section, pinching the vertebrae in this section or pinching the holes by overgrown osteophytes has very serious consequences.

What it is?

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a progressive polyetiologic disease, manifested by degeneration of the intervertebral discs and dystrophy of the ligamentous apparatus of the spine.

Causes of occurrence

The main causes and prerequisites for the occurrence of osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebra are:

  1. Curvature of the spine, scoliosis.
  2. Stress, nervous tension negatively affect the general condition of the body, can cause cervical osteochondrosis.
  3. Deferred infectious diseases often become the root cause.
  4. Incorrect and uncomfortable body position during sleep (for example, an uncomfortable pillow).
  5. Congenital problems or the presence of hereditary diseases of the cervical spine.
  6. Poor posture in young people and adolescents.
  7. Overweight, obesity to varying degrees. Extra pounds increase the load on the vertebrae and discs, which leads to degenerative processes.
  8. Back injuries that may have occurred during childhood or adolescence.
  9. Disruption of metabolic processes.
  10. Work related to physical labor, which can cause diseases of the spine in its different parts.
  11. Inactive lifestyle, sedentary work, poor performance of any exercise.

For the successful treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, it is first necessary to establish the cause of the appearance, the prerequisites that provoked its development and eliminate them. Until recently, the disease only occurred in people over 45 years old. Now young people are exposed to it, the age range is 18 to 25 years old.

Features of the cervical spine

healthy and sick spine

Consider how the cervical region differs from the rest of the spine, and the process of development of osteochondrosis is a prerequisite for the development of these syndromes.

  • In the cervical region there are large ganglia (nodes) of the autonomic nervous system.
  • In the transverse processes of the vertebrae, there are holes that form a channel through which the vertebral artery passes, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain, cerebellum, auditory organs, as well as the vertebral nerve. . These are prerequisites for frequent arterial and nerve clips.
  • The cervical spine is the most mobile. It is characterized by all types of movements in full. These are prerequisites for frequent offenses and subluxations!
  • The intervertebral foramina of the three lower vertebrae are not round, but triangular. These are prerequisites for nerve root involvement by bone growths, which form in osteochondrosis.
  • The intervertebral discs are not located between the vertebral bodies along their entire length. In the front part, instead of them, there are protruding edges of the vertebrae, which are connected with each other by joints.

Here are the main characteristics from which we will base our analysis of the symptoms and complications of osteochondrosis.

Stages of development

The degree of osteochondrosis is determined by the clinical picture and the patient's complaints. The notion of degree should not be confused with the stages of osteochondrosis. The steps will be discussed below.

  1. First degree. clinical manifestations are minimal, the patient may complain of mild pain in the cervical spine, they may worsen when turning the head. The physical exam may show a slight tension in the muscles of the neck.
  2. Second degree. the patient is worried about the pain in the cervical spine, its intensity is much greater, the pain may radiate to the shoulder, arm. Painful sensations increase when tilting and rotating the head. The patient may notice decreased performance, weakness, headache.
  3. Third degree. symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis intensify, the pain becomes constant with irradiation of the arm or shoulder. Numbness or weakness appears in the muscles of the arm, as herniated discs form (see symptoms of a spinal herniated lumbar spine). Examination reveals limited mobility of the cervical spine, pain on palpation of the cervical spine.
  4. Fourth degree. there is complete destruction of the intervertebral disc and its replacement with connective tissue. Dizziness intensifies, tinnitus appears, impaired coordination.


The severity of symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis depends on the degree of destruction of the vertebral structures. Symptoms are aggravated by growth of bone tissue with formation of osteophytes, radicular syndrome (radicular pain when a nerve is pinched), intervertebral hernia (protrusion of the disc in the spinal canal).

The first signs of the disease are periodic headaches in the occiput, neck pain, cracking and clicking in the vertebrae when turning the head, and sometimes a slight tingling sensation in the shoulders. Over time, the symptoms increase and the intensity of the pain increases.

Pain syndrome is the main manifestation of osteochondrosis. Neck pain may be dull, constant, or sharp with lumbago under the occiput when the head is rotated. The entire cervical region or projection area of the altered vertebra, as well as the collarbone, shoulder, scapula, and heart area, may be painful. The restriction of head movement due to pain often occurs in the morning after sleeping in an awkward position.

The disease causes compression of the roots of the peripheral nerves (radicular syndrome) and causes pain along the path of these nerves. Perhaps numbness of the hands or fingers, altered sensitivity of certain areas of the skin innervated by the pinched nerve.

According to some characteristic symptoms, it can be assumed which vertebrae are affected:

  • C1 - violation of sensitivity in the occipital region;
  • C2 - pain in the occipital and parietal regions;
  • C3 - decreased sensitivity and pain in the half of the neck where the spinal nerve has been damaged, possibly altered sensitivity of the tongue, speech disturbances due to loss of control of the tongue;
  • C4 - impaired sensitivity and pain in the shoulder-scapular region, decreased tone of the muscles of the head and neck, possible respiratory disorders, pain in the liver and heart;
  • C5 - pain and altered tenderness on the outer surface of the shoulder;
  • C6 - pain extending from the neck to the scapula, forearm, outer surface of the shoulder, radial surface of the forearm to the thumb of the hand;
  • C7 - pain extending from the neck to the scapula, on the back of the shoulder, from the forearm to the II - IV fingers of the hand, altered tenderness in this area.
  • C8 - Pain and sensory impairment extends from the neck to the shoulder, from the forearm to the little finger.

Clicking or cracking with neck movements almost always accompanies cervical osteochondrosis, seen in every patient. The crunch appears during a sudden turn of the head or a throwing back.

Syndromes due to cervical osteochondrosis

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis are grouped together, called syndromes. Their presence and severity may indicate pathology of the cervical spine with a specified localization.

A group of common syndromes:

  1. Vegetative-dystonic syndrome. Subluxation of the first cervical vertebra with displacement can lead to the development of vegetative-vascular dystonia. VSD is not a definitive diagnosis because it does not have any pronounced symptoms. There may be neurological signs, symptoms of impaired cerebral blood flow, increases in intracranial pressure, muscle spasms. As a result, the patient's complaints are reduced to dizziness, decreased visual acuity, loss of consciousness, headache, and nausea.
  2. Irritating and reflective. Burning, sharp pain in the back of the head and neck, sometimes with a throwing back to the chest and shoulder, occurring with a change in the position of the head and neck, with sneezing and a sharp turnof the head.
  3. Root. Otherwise called cervical radiculitis, it combines symptoms related to damage to the nerve roots of the cervical vertebrae. Characterized by "chills" in the affected area, tingling in the fingers, forearms, pasty skin, extending to some fingers.
  4. Cardiac. Almost the same picture with angina often leads to incorrect diagnosis and treatment. The syndrome appears due to irritation of the phrenic nerve receptors, partially capturing the pericardium and pectoralis major muscle. Thus, the spasms in the heart area are more reflex, as a response to irritation of the cervical nerves.
  5. Vertebral artery syndrome. It develops directly both with the compression of the artery itself, and with irritation of the sympathetic nerve plexus, which is located around it. The pain in this pathology is burning or throbbing in the occipital region with spread to the temples, eyebrow arches, crown. Occurs on both one side and both sides. Patients usually associate the exacerbation with the condition after sleeping in a non-physiological position, traveling in transport, walking. With severe symptoms, hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, increased blood pressure are possible.

Nonspecificity and a large number of various symptoms accompanying this disease complicate the diagnosis and further treatment, since some of them can be a sign of completely different diseases.

what osteochondrosis of the cervical spine looks like


As with any diagnosis in medicine, the diagnosis of osteochondrosis is made on the basis of the patient's complaints, medical history, clinical examination and auxiliary research methods. The cervical spine x-ray is performed in frontal and lateral projections, if necessary in specific positions (open mouth). At the same time, specialists are interested in the height of the intervertebral discs and the presence of osteophytes.

Among modern research methods, NMR and CT studies are used, which allows the most accurate verification of the diagnosis. In addition to the additional research methods listed, you may need to consult related specialists (cardiologist, ophthalmologist, neurosurgeon), and examination by a neurologist is simply vital. A neurologist is engaged in the treatment of osteochondrosis. Therefore, after examining the patient, he will, at his discretion, prescribe the minimum necessary examination.

How to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical spine?

Complex treatment of cervical osteochondrosis can include the following traditional and non-traditional methods: drug therapy, massage, acupressure, manual therapy, physiotherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, folk remedies, etc.

The main treatment regimen for osteochondrosis is the same for all localizations of this disease:

  • First you need to relieve the pain.
  • Then the swelling will be removed.
  • At this stage, it is necessary to normalize blood circulation.
  • Strengthening of the muscular corset.
  • Improve nutrition and tissue regeneration.

The list of drugs and drugs for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis at home is very long:

  1. Anti-inflammatory (steroid). These are hormonal drugs that relieve inflammation and thus eliminate pain. Most often, for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, tablets and ointments are used based on substances of hydrocortisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone;
  2. Analgesics (nonsteroidal pain relievers). They are usually prescribed as tablets or capsules. It should be remembered that most of these drugs irritate the lining of the digestive tract. Among modern drugs used to relieve pain in osteochondrosis;
  3. Muscle relaxants are drugs that relax muscle tone. They are used in surgery and orthopedics as aids in pain relief. These drugs are administered parenterally, and therefore always under the supervision of a doctor. There is a long list of contraindications;
  4. Chondroprotectors are preparations containing substances that replace the components of cartilage - chondroitin, hyaluronic acid. To achieve a lasting positive effect, these drugs must be taken for a very long time;pain in the cervical spine
  5. Ointments and gels for external use. This is the most accessible group of drugs for home use. They are divided into inflammation relief, warming, and pain relievers. These funds are often advertised. With cervical osteochondrosis, not all ointments are effective. In addition, due to their availability, they are sometimes used unreasonably and without taking into account the peculiarities of pathogenesis.
  6. Vitamins. With osteochondrosis, vitamins are prescribed, which have a beneficial effect on the peripheral nervous system and improve conductivity. Water-soluble vitamins: B1, B6, B12, fat-soluble vitamins: A, C, D, E. In recent years, it has become more common to prescribe combination preparations containing both analgesics and vitamin components. An effective preparation consists of B vitamins based on pyridoxine and thiamine, as well as an anesthetic.

Only a team of good specialists can choose the most suitable therapy, which includes a neurologist, physiotherapist, massage therapist, surgeon and spinal neurologist.


Exercise therapy for cervical osteochondrosis should be performed apart from the acute exacerbation. The greatest effectiveness of this technique is during the recovery period. There should be no discomfort or pain when performing the complex!

  • Exercise # 1 Lying on your stomach, put your hands on the floor, lift your head and torso, your back should be straight. Stay in this position for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly lower yourself to the ground. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • Exercise number 2 Lying on your stomach, stretch your arms out alongside your body, turn your head to the left, try to touch the floor with your ear, then turn your head to the right. Repeat 6-7 times in each direction.
  • Exercise number 3 While seated, inhaling, lean forward and try to touch your chest with your head, then while exhaling, lean back and tilt your head back. Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Exercise # 4 Sitting place your palms on your forehead, apply pressure with your palms on your forehead and your forehead on your palms. Continue this exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • Exercise number 5 Slowly turn your head first in one direction, then in the other direction. 10 turns in each direction. Watch for dizziness. When it appears, the exercise stops.
cervical osteochondrosis exercises

Massage therapy

Massage can be carried out at home, but very carefully so as not to aggravate and harm the patient. The patient should take a lying position, put the forehead on the hands and stretch the chin to the chest. In this case, the neck muscles should be completely relaxed.

  1. Caress. It is necessary to begin the massage with these movements: caress the area of the neck in the direction of the lymph towards the supraclavicular and axillary nodes. Then flat and combed strokes are applied.
  2. Shoes. To perform push-ups, the masseur places one hand on the neck (forefinger and thumb should be together) and moves down the spine. Push-ups can also be done with the edge of the palm up to the shoulder joints.
  3. Trituration. Rubbing is done to warm muscles, relax them, and improve blood circulation in the area. The massage should start from the base of the skull, making circular and rectilinear movements with the fingers. You can also perform sawing movements with the palms parallel to the ribs.
  4. Kneading. Kneading should be done on the neck in a circular motion.
  5. Vibration. The massage ends with blows and vibrations, which are performed with the help of jerks and blows.
neck massage

Massage is necessary to strengthen muscle tone and relieve pain. Depending on the stage at which osteochondrosis is found, a massage technique is chosen. However, when massaging the neck, specialists use all the techniques of classic massage: rubbing, stroking, kneading, etc. In cases where the patient has pain in the neck area on one side only, the massage begins in the healthy part of the neck, gradually moving to the part of the neck area where strong painful sensations occur.

Manual therapy

Manual therapy helps to cope with both acute and chronic pain, it also increases range of motion and improves posture well. The main methods of manual therapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine:

manual therapy for osteochondrosis of the neck
  1. Relaxing and segmental massage. It is used to warm up muscles and relieve tension.
  2. Mobilization. Effects aimed at restoring the functions of the joints. by stretching method.
  3. Handling. A strong push aimed at the pathological areas of the patient. The intervention is accompanied by a characteristic cracking (return of the joint to its normal position).

A specialist practicing manual therapy should master these techniques. Otherwise, any mistake may result in injury.

Orthopedic pillows

orthopedic pillow for osteochondrosis

Orthopedic sleep pillows are an effective preventive measure. In many cases, osteochondrosis is made worse by additional compression of the cervical artery and nerve roots while sleeping on an uncomfortable pillow. The orthopedic product ensures a uniform horizontal position of a person during sleep and thus guarantees a physiologically adequate blood supply to the brain.

When choosing a pillow, it is worth taking into account the individual anatomical features of a person and correlating them with the volume and characteristics of the load. A correctly selected pillow brings tangible benefits to a patient with osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.


Physiotherapy procedures for cervical osteochondrosis:

physiotherapy for cervical osteochondrosis of the spine
  1. Electrophoresis. Must be used with pain relievers (anesthetics), which are injected under the skin by means of electronic pulses
  2. Ultrasound. It has a beneficial effect on metabolic processes in the tissues of the cervical spine, due to which the bags are removed, the pain disappears.
  3. Magnetotherapy. A safe method of treatment, which involves exposing damaged cells to a low frequency magnetic field. It gives analgesic effect, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
  4. Laser therapy. Improves blood circulation in the affected area, relieves tissue swelling, pain.

Physiotherapy procedures have a beneficial effect on the discs and vertebrae in cervical osteochondrosis. In combination with taking medication, the combination therapy helps to get rid of the symptoms of the disease. The procedures are performed in a hospital or specialized offices in polyclinics. Before starting the course, you need to consult a doctor, determine the duration of physiotherapy, types. It is strictly forbidden to pass it during an exacerbation.

Shans Pass

cervical osteochondrosis of the spine trench collar

The Shants Collar is a soft and comfortable device that attaches with Velcro on the back and is used for cervical osteochondrosis. But not for treatment, but for temporary relaxation and relieve fatigue. It cannot be worn without removing it, otherwise the neck muscles will stop working and soon atrophy. If the Shants Collar is selected correctly, the patient feels comfortable and protected.

The collar is selected strictly according to the size in the pharmacy or orthopedic store. Better in the store, because the people who work there are usually very familiar with their business and the characteristics of the product, which means that they can help in each specific case.

Folk remedies

If the pain of osteochondrosis of the spine becomes unbearable and regular, then you will be okay with everything to stop it, and here the traditional complex treatment will be successfully supplemented with alternative methods.

  • insist on celery root (5 grams per 1 liter of boiling water) for 4 hours, drink a tablespoon before each meal;
  • honey compress, for which we take 2 tbsp. honey and 1 mummy tablet. We heat the components in a water bath, spread on a cloth and apply at night to the cervical region, that is, the neck;
  • in case of acute pain, the horseradish that grows in the countryside helps me. I just washed its leaf, pour it into boiling water, cool it a little, apply it to the neck and wrap it with a thin scarf for the night - in the morning you can alreadylive and work;
  • we insist on chamomile flowers in vegetable oil for two days, preheating to a boil (for 500 ml of oil, 30 grams of a plant is needed), rubbing the painful areas;
  • Honey-potato compress also helps, for this the tuber should be grated and mixed with honey in the same amount, applied to a large neck at night, used regularly, at least once a week.


As usual, proper prophylaxis will help prevent osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, but, of course, all physical exercises should be used regularly, otherwise "periodic" exercises will not benefit much.

It remains to remember simple rules:

  • eat more foods with lots of calcium and magnesium. These are fish, peas, legumes, nuts, cheese, herbs, but it is better to refrain from sugar, flour, smoked and spicy foods.
  • regularly practicing sports, especially swimming, water aerobics, gymnastics for stretching and flexibility of the vertebrae is also suitable for preventing osteochondrosis, which can be practiced at home.
  • during sedentary work, at least twice a day, perform a series of special exercises, an example of which is in the video.
  • choose a good orthopedic mattress and an ideal pillow for the neck, supporting the head in a dream in the right anatomical position (yes, your favorite huge down pillows will not go away with spinal problems! ).

If you already have such a diagnosis, the patient should spare his spine, namely:

  1. Be very careful when lifting and carrying weights, it is better to go to the store twice than to pull heavy bags with two hands, which makes your neck and shoulder girdle unbelievably tired;
  2. Do not overcool, avoid drafts and cold air flow from the air conditioner (some people like to cool off on a hot day, with their back to the fan);
  3. When leaning the body forward - remember osteochondrosis;
  4. Avoid local heating of the muscles, which can happen to those who like a too hot bath;
  5. Remember to periodically step away from the monitor, change the position of the body, do not sit for hours, even days;
  6. Rest your neck, for which you need to buy a Shants necklace;
  7. If possible, if the condition of the cardiovascular system allows it, take a steam bath.

In conclusion, I would like to say that a child who is at risk of osteochondrosis (both father and mother already have it) and an adult who acquired the disease during life are simply obliged to take preventive measures so as not tonot become disabled. and not be on the operating table, because this operation is quite difficult and requires long-term rehabilitation. In addition, this is not always possible, since there are inoperable cases, so it is better to protect health from an early age, as long as the discs are intact and unnecessary growths do not squeeze the blood vessels.