Cervical osteochondrosis - causes, symptoms and methods of treatment

Dizziness, pressure fluctuations, fainting, heart pain - all of these often come from problems with the spine. 80% of the population suffers from osteochondrosis of the cervical spine of varying severity, and according to statistics, men face it earlier than women: at 45-50 years. If you do not start treatment at an early stage, the pathology becomes irreversible.

What is osteochondrosis

Pathology is associated with dystrophic changes in the cartilage between the vertebrae, in which the soft tissues become hard and the impairment decreases.

Osteochondrosis affects the thoracic region, the lumbar region, but more often than others - the cervical region. The reason is a high load on 1-7 vertebrae, weak muscles, poor nutrition, and choosing the wrong pillow for sleeping.

Mechanism of damage to cervical vertebrae

mechanism of development of cervical osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis develops when the process of nutrition of cartilage tissue, mineral metabolism is disturbed. The strength of bones and joints decreases, ligaments lose their elasticity. The shape and structure of the disc changes, and under the influence of loads it collapses. The vertebrae come together, their surfaces disappear. The pathology leads to such complications:

  1. Compression of the vessels passing through 1 to 7 vertebrae causes hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in the brain.
  2. Development of problems in the work of the respiratory system, blood vessels, heart, loss of vision.
  3. Violation of blood circulation in the brain leads to neurocirculatory (vegetative-vascular) dystonia.
  4. Decreased mobility of the neck - when bone formations form on the vertebrae.
  5. Cerebellar dysfunction, compression of the spinal cord - results in death in advanced stages of the disease.

Stages of cervical osteochondrosis

The pathology develops slowly. At the preclinical stage, the distance between the vertebrae decreases, they press on the soft disc. Then it thins, the fibrous ring is destroyed, its nucleus swells. A protrusion forms, then a hernia. The vertebrae rub against each other, change their shape, and growths appear on them. The nerves and blood vessels are pinched.

The initial stage of cervical osteochondrosis

Cracks appear in the ring, the capsule ruptures, and the nucleus pulposus is damaged. Cervical osteochondrosis is felt when the head is turned, when the nerve endings are pinched, the blood vessels constrict, and the blood flow suffers. There is pain in the back of the head, the back muscles tire quickly.

2 stage of the pathology

The degenerative process in the discs develops, the ring of the capsule is completely destroyed. The height between the vertebrae decreases, they become unstable and pinch the nerve roots of the spinal cord. The flexibility and mobility of the neck decrease. At this point, the disease can still be treated without surgery.

The final stages of cervical osteochondrosis

developmental stages of cervical osteochondrosis

In the 3rd stage of the pathology, a disc protrusion develops, which leads to a herniation, the pulp ring swells and protrudes. The cervical vertebrae and their axis are displaced, the nutrition of the brain suffers. In addition, at the last (3 and 4) stages of the pathology, the following processes begin:

  • the intervertebral discs are destroyed, which are replaced by connective tissue;
  • mobility of neck and shoulder joints is lost;
  • from friction on the surface of the vertebrae, growths are formed, nerve fibers are injured;
  • the sensitivity of the hands decreases due to innervation problems.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis

The patient's condition depends on the stage of the disease. First, there are rare pains when turning or lowering the head, tension in the back muscles. After that, the person feels constant fatigue. The pain worsens and becomes more frequent. Additional weakness, dizziness, ringing in the ears are added, visual acuity decreases. All signs of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine are divided into 3 groups:

  • Irritative reflex syndromes- neurodystrophic, musculotonic and vegetative-vascular manifestations.
  • Root compression- associated with compression of nerve endings, one of the main symptoms is sharp pain when turning your head.
  • Vertebral artery syndrome- occurs when the vessel supplying the structures of the brain is narrowed.

Neurotic disorders

The brain is poorly supplied with blood, its work and the state of the nervous system are disturbed. Often the head hurts, insomnia torments, which causes a state of fatigue, apathy. Then the following symptoms appear:

signs and symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
  • increased sweating;
  • emotional lability (unstable mood);
  • increased irritability;
  • dizziness;
  • depression;
  • altered concentration;
  • tinnitus;
  • "flies" before the eyes;
  • anxiety;
  • tremors (tremors) of the limbs;
  • panic attacks;
  • vestibular system disorders: nausea, vomiting, unsteadiness in walking, disorientation in space, lack of coordination.

General clinical signs

Osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae causes headaches, visual disturbances. In stage 2 of the pathology, patients complain of ringing in the ears, a lump in the throat, weakness of the muscles of the arms, numbness of the tongue. Turning the neck and tilting the head, a cracking sound is heard, black dots appear in front of the eyes. With vertebral artery syndrome, other symptoms appear:

  • migraine from the occiput to the forehead;
  • darkening before the eyes;
  • scalp pain;
  • hearing loss;
  • increased blood pressure;
  • tingling in the fingers.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis in women

The clinical picture does not depend on gender, but women between the ages of 45 and 65 are more likely to experience numbness in the extremities during sleep, tingling and pain in the hands. The attacks are repeated several times at night.

Causes of cervical osteochondrosis

The pathology develops under the influence of a high load on the vertebrae, which causes muscle spasms. Sedentary work often leads to this - in front of a computer, in a vehicle.

People with postural disorders are at risk. Other causes of cervical osteochondrosis:

  • nervous tension, frequent stressful situations;
  • hypodynamia - lack of physical activity, low activity;
  • weakness of the neck muscles;
  • hereditary predisposition;
  • injuries to the spine;
  • rheumatism
  • ;
  • excessive physical activity, weight training;
  • unhealthy diet;
  • metabolic disorders;
  • causes of cervical osteochondrosis
  • Frequent hypothermia of the neck;
  • age-related changes in musculoskeletal system, cartilage tissue;
  • congenital malformations of the cervical spine;
  • autoimmune pathologies that affect cartilage tissue;
  • overweight;
  • instability of the vertebrae.


The doctor examines the patient's complaints, assesses posture, muscle tension. The diagnosis is clarified with the help of an X-ray of the neck in 4 projections: the photo shows the position of the vertebrae, the displacement. The stage of the disease and latent pathologies are revealed by such methods:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging- the most effective method, shows in detail degenerative changes in bones, hernias, protrusions, ruptures of a fibrous ring. It can be prescribed in place of the x-ray, but the exam is expensive.
  • duplex ultrasound- to assess blood flow problems in the arteries.
  • Computed tomography- does not reveal the size and area of ​​the hernias, it is prescribed in the early stages to determine the narrowing of the vertebral cleft, displacement of segments of the cervical spine, marginal growthsbone tissue.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

The goals of therapy are to restore blood circulation, tissue nutrition, eliminate symptoms of hypoxia and stop the destruction of vertebrae and discs. It is important to strengthen the muscular corset which supports the neck and restores mobility to the joints. Treatment tactics are chosen depending on the stage of the disease:

  • Initial- massage, gymnastics, physiotherapy, taking chondroprotectors and drugs that improve blood circulation.
  • Osteochondrosis stage 2-3- drug addiction treatment, restorative gymnastics, massage.
  • Irreversible degenerative changes with destruction, deformation of the vertebrae- surgery and symptomatic drug therapy.
  • Exacerbation of the chronic form of cervical osteochondrosis- injections or tablets of drugs that relieve pain, spasms.

Help for feelings of intense pain

Topically apply a pepper bandage or warming ointments on the neck. Active heating of a separate area distracted from pain, increases blood flow to the tissues. The ointment is applied in a very thin layer using an applicator. Other ways to relieve osteochondrosis pain:

  • Analgesics in tablets- have medium effectiveness, are contraindicated in cases of blood clotting problems.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs- tablets are taken if there is no result from painkillers, since this group of drugs negatively affects the stomach and liver.
  • Injections- given in severe acute pain, the effect appears after 15 minutes. For intramuscular injections, NSAIDs, myotropic antispasmodics are used. In severe cases, a blockade is made.

Conservative methods of therapy for osteochondrosis of the neck

At 1-2 stages of the disease without symptoms of cerebral hypoxia, treatment is carried out at home. The basis of therapy is gymnastics and massage. They improve blood circulation, strengthen muscles. Other methods:

  • Drugs- oral drugs and injections for exacerbations, ointments and creams the rest of the time.
  • Physiotherapy- course of 7-10 procedures during remission.
  • Folk remedies- as an additional method of treating osteochondrosis.
  • Diet- foods rich in fatty acids, magnesium and calcium are introduced into the diet. Exclude salt, smoked meats, marinated and spicy foods, fast food.


The treatment of cervical osteochondrosis during an exacerbation is aimed at relieving unpleasant symptoms, stimulating blood circulation and nourishing the tissues.

During the period of remission, drugs are used that improve the quality of cartilage, prevent the vertebrae from collapsing. The drugs are used internally and topically. The main groups of funds are:

  • Muscle relaxants- relieve muscle spasms, relieve pain, are applied within a month.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)- applied topically and internally, relieve pain, swelling. The tablets are not used for more than 10 days.
  • Analgesics- they relieve pain, but do not suppress inflammation and have a weaker effect than NSAIDs.
  • Chondroprotectors- protects and restores cartilage tissue.
  • Sedatives- are often prescribed for women who have osteochondrosis of the cervical spine complicated by severe neurotic disorders.
  • Nootropics- affect cerebral circulation, help fight vertigo.
  • Vitamin and mineral complexes- improve metabolism in nervous tissue.


During remission, the treatment of osteochondrosis of the neck is based on local procedures that improve blood circulation, metabolism, relieve pain and inflammation. The patient does gymnastics every day, the plan of which is drawn up by the doctor. The main treatments are:

  • Manual therapy- straighten the position of the vertebrae and fix them by massage. A course of 5 to 10 sessions takes place 2 to 4 times a year. At home, a light massage is allowed, stroking and rubbing the cervical area and collar up and down for 7-10 minutes to relieve muscle spasms.
  • Electrophoresis with drugs- drugs are used to relieve pain and improve blood circulation, which with the current quickly reaches the desired point.
  • Magnetotherapy- aimed at eliminating edema.
  • Acupuncture- improves blood circulation, relieves inflammation. It takes place in the course of 8 to 10 sessions in 1 to 2 days.
  • The
  • Shants Collaris ​​a controversial method of eliminating the symptoms of osteochondrosis because the load is removed from the muscles, but they are not strengthened. The product fixes the neck and stretches the spine, increasing the distance between its segments. They wear a collar 3 hours a day for a month.

Exercise therapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae

Apart from periods of exacerbation, the patient does therapeutic exercises. The strong head tilts forward and backward, rotation is prohibited. Each exercise lasts no more than a minute, without sudden movements, jerks. In case of discomfort or pain, the session is interrupted. Proven Cervical Spine Exercises:

  • Slowly turn your head to the right and to the left, staring fixedly at a point in front of you: you thus control a small range of motion. Do 10 to 15 times in each direction, gradually reduce to 30.
  • Place your palm on your forehead and apply pressure while trying to tilt your head forward. Count to 5 and relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Place your right palm on your left temple, press to tilt your head towards your shoulder. Count to 5, let go Do 10 times on each side.
  • Lying on your stomach, stretch your arms out alongside your body. Lifting your head slightly, slowly turn it so that your ear touches the floor. Do 10 movements on each side.

Surgical treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

If the nerve roots are affected, there is a hernia with rupture of the ring, the vertebrae are destroyed, and there is no result of the main treatment, an operation is performed.

Symptoms of serious illness: paralysis of the hand, muscle atrophy, stroke. The main methods of treatment:

  • Facetectomy- endoscopic removal of the joints followed by fixation of the vertebrae, which will be immobile.
  • Fusion disectomy- is prescribed for severe deformity changes. During the operation, the soft disc is removed, the vertebrae are spliced ​​to stop their destruction. Disadvantages: limited mobility of the cervical spine, long rehabilitation.
  • Spinal fusion- removal of fragments of a destroyed disc, bone process, introduction of an artificial graft and fixation of the vertebrae with screws. The recovery period is one year, the patient is shown wearing a corset.
  • Corpectomy- removal of the destroyed vertebra and adjacent discs, performed without any effect of other methods

Folk remedies for cervical osteochondrosis

For severe pain take 1 tsp. alcohol and camphor, add 2 drops of iodine and rub the areas on the left and right of the spine (do not touch the spine itself) for 3-5 minutes. This is done once or twice a day.

Other folk recipes in addition to the main therapy:

Folk remedies for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis
  1. Pour 500 g of knotweed with water (2 l), boil, leave. Pour the cooled broth through cheesecloth into a prepared bath, take it for 15-20 minutes. The procedure is carried out at night, it relaxes and soothes. The course is 7 to 10 sessions.
  2. Mix 1 tbsp. l. birch buds, St. John's wort, mint leaves. Grind, pour a glass of water, boil for 5 minutes. Filter, mix with butter and vegetable oil (75 g each). Apply the ointment in a thin layer on the neck, cover with plastic and a scarf on top. Hold for an hour. Procedures are carried out daily for 2 weeks.
  3. Pour 100 g of elderberries with vodka (600 ml). Insist in a cold place for a week. Rub the neck with this remedy 2 times a day for 10 to 15 days.


Patients over 40 should take calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and magnesium as a cure once every six months - they improve the condition of bones, ligaments and cartilage. The diet includes fatty fish, shrimp, mussels, nuts, legumes, spinach, cheese, milk. Other preventive measures:

  • during sedentary work, change the position of the neck more often, stretch it every hour;
  • choose a comfortable pillow;
  • go swimming, do yoga;
  • avoid weight lifting, sports jumping, running;
  • Avoid cervical hypothermia.