The trend towards an increase in degenerative-dystrophic lesions of the spine is steadily growing every year, and all because in connection with urbanization, the problem of hypodynamia and hypokinesia is acute. Damage to the cervical spine causes frequent headaches of varying intensity and a feeling of stiffness in the neck and forearms. Today our topic is the causes, symptoms and treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.
Causes of cervical osteochondrosis
Speaking about the causes of degenerative lesions of the cervical spine, one can list genetic, toxic, metabolic endocrine, infectious and others. However, in the first place, you can put a sedentary lifestyle and sitting at a computer, desk and driving.
Frequent stress helps this pathology to develop, which inevitably makes the posture stoop, which leads to pinching of the blood vessels of the neck nerves.
Pain symptoms in the neck should not be ignored, as this leads to the progression of the disease and the development of complications such as periarthrosis of the shoulder scapula, vertebral artery syndrome, scalene anterior syndrome and radicular syndrome.
About the anatomical structure
Now let's see what anatomical and physiological features of the structure of the cervical spine contribute to the development and progression of osteochondrosis:
- The cervical region is the most mobile part of the spinal column. Since all types of movements are possible in it, this increases the risk of subluxation and frequent infringement;
- The vertebral artery runs in a canal formed in the openings of the transverse processes of the vertebrae. It supplies blood to the brain, auditory organs, spinal nerve, and cerebellum. With the development of degenerative-dystrophic changes, the artery and nerve can be clamped in this section.
- In the cervical spine, the intervertebral discs are not everywhere between the vertebrae. In the front part, the vertebrae are connected by joints, which can provoke subluxation of the joints.
- The holes on the three lower cervical vertebrae have a triangular shape, and with the growth of bone tissue in osteochondrosis, it can infringe on the nerve roots.
- The vegetative ganglia are located along the cervical spine.
These features will help us to present the mechanism of development of complications of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.
Mechanisms of development of changes in the cervical spine
The pathological process begins in the intervertebral disc with the loss of moisture in the nucleus pulposus of the disc. The annulus fibrosus gradually becomes thinner, its elasticity decreases, and micro-tears appear.
As a result, the disc loses its ability to fix, cushion and support. The load on the lower vertebrae gradually increases, after which the vertebra itself is involved in the process.
Small defects appear in it and osteophytes (excessive growth of bone tissue) grow in order to withstand the increased load.
When the bone tissue grows along the back wall of the vertebra, the nerve roots are compressed, and if along the lateral surface, the vertebral artery is pinched.
Joint subluxations appear due to imbalance between the vertebrae. This leads to compensatory tension in the neck muscles, which helps to keep the cervical vertebrae in a normal position.
When the muscles get tired, the load on the vertebrae increases again, which leads to the progression of the disease. Thus, a vicious circle is formed in which spasmodic muscles and damaged vertebrae adversely affect each other and lead to a deterioration in the patient's condition.
Based on pathological mechanisms, symptoms of the disease are formed. So, compression of the nerve roots is manifested by intense paroxysmal pain along the strangulated nerve.
And with compression of the vertebral artery, symptoms associated with a decrease in blood flow in the brain come first, namely: tinnitus, dizziness and headache.
The main symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis.
The main symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis are conventionally divided into 3 groups:
The first group of symptoms - pain sensations
It appears as:
- local occiput / neck pain;
- radiating pain that spreads to the right or left arm, and can also go to the fingers of the hands, to the very hand, to the forearm, and even localize to the shoulder joints.
This pain can be aching and constant, irritating and spreading to the entire neck or arms. Or it is a local, more acute shooting pain, which appears as a result of pinching of the nerve root.
The second group of symptoms is movement disorders
First of all, this is the stiffness of the muscles of the neck and the back of the head, as a result of which it is impossible to turn or tilt the head normally, or to make any movement in the cervical spine.
In addition, this is a limitation of mobility in the shoulder joint, which is called the syndrome of the shoulder-scapular periarthrosis. It can also spread to the entire arm, including finger numbness, hand numbness, and numbness along the lateral surface of the shoulder or forearm.
The third group of symptoms is vegetative-vascular manifestations, vascular manifestations
In the process, either vasospasm or pinching in the spine occurs. As a result, symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis such as headaches, dizziness, flashing "flies" before the eyes may appear.
There may also be hearing impairments - tinnitus and a feeling of "sulfur plug", in which a person has poor hearing. These symptoms are related to vertebral artery syndrome.
Methods of traditional treatment of cervical osteochondrosis
Modern medicine offers many methods of treating degenerative-dystrophic lesions of the spine. Among them are: drug treatment, manual therapy, folk remedies, physical therapy (exercise therapy), and in advanced cases, they resort to surgical treatment. The effectiveness of therapy depends on the stage at which the treatment is started and the set of selected methods.
Treatment should primarily be aimed at normalizing the muscle tone of the cervical spine. The action of the remaining funds is aimed at relieving inflammation and pain in the development of pathological changes.
An important point in the treatment of osteochondrosis is a good comfortable sleep, for which experts recommend using an orthopedic pillow.
In the early stages of the development of the disease, the use of massage by an experienced specialist and self-massage will be effective. This method will help to relax spasmodic muscles and stop the progression of the pathological process.
Treatment of osteochondrosis should include physiotherapy exercises in the form of medical gymnastics or morning hygiene. When performing a set of therapeutic exercises, adhere to the following recommendations:
- wear comfortable clothes and shoes;
- to avoid shortness of breath, alternate regular exercises with breathing;
- the load should increase gradually, and if during the lesson you begin to notice complaints from the cardiovascular system, then stop exercising and consult a doctor;
- if pain appears in the cervical spine during the lesson, then replace them with exercises for relaxation and stretching;
- during the lesson, control your general health, breathing and pulse;
- if abduction and resistance exercises cause you severe pain, then give them up for a while;
- the complex of physical exercises of medical gymnastics must be agreed with the doctor.
Expect the following effects from exercise therapy:
- Strengthening the neck muscles,
- Blood flow restoration;
- Increasing the mobility of the vertebrae;
- Increase the range of motion in the cervical spine;
- Relief from pain and restoration of innervation;
- Prevention of exacerbations.
Most neuropathologists and other specialists do not represent the treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine without medication. The most popular are drugs from the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are used in the form of injections, tablets, gels and ointments.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs relieve pain, inflammation and relieve swelling, as a result, the tone of the neck muscles is restored, the metabolism in the affected area improves, and the nerve roots and blood vessels are released from compression.
It is advisable to use drugs from the group of muscle relaxants, which also effectively relieve muscle spasm and at the same time restore their tone. However, medications should be used with caution, especially in allergy sufferers.
Preparations from the corticosteroid group have earned good reviews in the treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.
An injectable drug is very popular due to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective action.
If the described treatment is not effective, then resort to the use of paravertebral blockade with painkillers or steroids.
How to treat cervical osteochondrosis by non-traditional methods
Proponents of non-traditional therapies can benefit from the following treatments.
- Acupuncturehelps to relieve the patient from pain, relieve swelling and relax spasmodic muscles, as well as eliminate functional compression of nerves and arteries. If fingers go numb, then it is advisable to put needles in biologically active points on the hand and auricle;
- Manual Therapyhelps restore normal blood flow to the neck, relieves muscle spasms and relieves pinched nerves. The stretching of the spine must be done with great care by a skilled professional;
- Hirudotherapy (leech therapy)is an inexpensive and quite effective method of treatment. The procedure consists in placing leeches on biologically active points, which should be repeated in a course of 10 sessions. This method helps to restore blood circulation in the cervical spine, relieve swelling and inflammation;
- Acupressure massageis a finger effect on biologically active points and helps relieve muscle spasm, improve blood circulation, relieve swelling, pain and inflammation;
- Traditional methods of treatmentcan be successfully used at home. These are various decoctions and infusions that you can prepare yourself (infusion of wormwood, infusion of lilac flowers, infusion of garlic). Healing baths of mint, chamomile, sage, calamus rhizomes have a good effect.
After the above methods of treatment and familiarization with the mechanisms of the development of the disease, make a decision yourself who you should contact with your problem: a neurologist or a private clinic.