The spine performs the most important functions in the human body. From this article you will learn everything about what osteochondrosis is, what are the symptoms and treatment of this disease, what are the signs of pathology and the causes of the disease.
What is osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis is a disease in which intervertebral discs and other tissues of the spine are affected. Dystrophic processes are triggered inside the spinal column. The vertebra, as it were, compresses, crushes these discs, which gradually leads to pinching of the nerve endings of the spinal cord.
Important! If osteochondrosis is not treated, pathology can cause disability.
About 80% of the world's population suffers from pathologies of the spine. Osteochondrosis is most often diagnosed among people aged 15 - 30 years. Although the disease occurs in both men and women, a strong half of humanity is harder to tolerate this ailment.
The disease begins to develop and manifest itself in relatively adulthood, when a person leads an active life. Although osteochondrosis is possible in children, it occurs much less frequently than in adults.
Despite the fact that experts around the world have joined forces to eradicate the disease, every year new cases of osteochondrosis are recorded. Whether problems arise depends a lot on the individual's personal efforts.
There are many types of osteochondrosis, so different doctors may apply different classifications.
Depending on which part of the spine is affected, there are:
- cervical osteochondrosis;
- osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine;
- osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine;
- osteochondrosis of the sacral region.
Extensive osteochondrosis is also distinguished. This is a form of pathology in which several departments are affected at once. For example, osteochondrosis of the lumbosacral region is often found, since it is this part of the spinal column that experiences a constant increased load.
Whatever type of disease a person encounters, complications are always severe. Therefore, it is important to identify the disease as soon as possible and provide qualified first aid.
When a doctor makes a diagnosis, he notes at what stage the pathology is detected. With osteochondrosis, 3 stages are distinguished according to the picture of an X-ray examination and 4 stages according to symptomatic changes.
What happens during pathology
Almost all vertebrae have a similar structure. They consist of a vertebral body and an arch. All vertebrae, "folded" together, form a spinal canal. Discs are located between the vertebrae - jelly-like tendons that act as shock absorbers.
It is in the intervertebral discs with osteochondrosis that pathological changes begin. The fibrous part gradually becomes more fragile. Under the pressure of the vertebrae, the nucleus pulposus seems to make a move for itself and looks for a place where it is easiest to do it.
In most cases, the disc exits into the spinal canal. This leads to compression of the spinal cord and nerves located there. The result is pain and symptoms in the organs for which these nerves are responsible.
In response to pressure in the body, the processes of accelerated division of bone tissue are triggered. As a result, the development of osteophytes begins - bone growths that cause a person the main troubles with osteochondrosis.
So, with osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, the consequences can be sad, since the pathological process simultaneously affects both the nervous and vascular systems.
Causes of osteochondrosis
Since osteochondrosis is a dangerous enemy, it is important to understand what triggers the onset of the disease. Regardless of where the disease is located, its causes are always similar.
The main reasons due to which osteochondrosis can develop are the following:
- premature aging of tissues in the intervertebral discs;
- constant overstrain of the muscles supporting the spinal column;
- lack of reasonable stress on these muscle groups;
- uneven distribution of the load between the parts of the spine, which leads to imbalance and the development of pseudospondylolisthesis;
- the presence of a genetic predisposition to the development of degenerative processes in cartilaginous tissues;
- the presence of autoimmune diseases, due to which own antibodies disrupt the nutrition of the spine.
Undoubtedly, hormonal imbalances and poor diet can also affect the health of the spine. Some women first encountered symptoms of the disease during pregnancy when the workload increased.
Acute osteochondrosis usually develops after exposure to negative factors. The following factors can trigger the onset of symptoms:
- incorrect posture;
- sedentary lifestyle;
- prolonged positioning in an uncomfortable position;
- lifting heavy weights;
- lack of a muscular corset of the spine;
- lack of vitamins and minerals necessary for the regeneration of bone and cartilage tissue;
- emotional experiences;
- severe infections;
- impact of unfavorable ecology;
- prolonged hypothermia;
- getting injured;
- abrupt changes in body position;
- power sports;
- wearing shoes with uncomfortable heels;
- being overweight;
- metabolic disorders;
- congenital malformations.
As you can see, many factors can provoke the development of osteochondrosis. However, the sooner the first signs of the disease are discovered and the diagnosis is carried out, the more chances are to cure the pathology and preserve the quality of life.
Features of the disease by stages
There are 4 stages of the disease and each has its own intensity of symptoms:
- with grade 1 disease, the patient does not experience general symptoms, but there may only be localized pain;
- with osteochondrosis of the 2nd degree, the pain becomes stronger, protrusion of discs and subluxation of the vertebral bodies develop, violations of statics are observed;
- for grade 3 osteochondrosis, significant symptoms, including general ones, are characteristic, and the lesion reaches the stage of intervertebral hernia development;
- at 4 stages of pathology, disability occurs, and any medications no longer bring relief.
Of course, if osteochondrosis is detected at the initial stage, it is quite possible to stop the progression of the disease.
However, intervertebral osteochondrosis is divided depending on the damage to the vertebral body:
- no violations at stage 0;
- at the 1st stage the disturbances are insignificant, sometimes there are internal tears in the vertebrae;
- at the 2nd stage, changes in the disc are quite noticeable and expressed, however, the outer surface is preserved;
- At the 3rd stage, the disc is completely affected, squeezed out into the area of the spinal cord or outward.
If you experience minor symptoms, even instability of the lumbar spine or discomfort in any other area, you should consult a specialist for advice.
Symptoms of osteochondrosis
As already noted, the intensity of symptoms depends on the degree of damage to the vertebral body and the location of the damage. Most patients report similar symptoms.
When the pathological process is localized in the cervical spine, the following symptoms are possible:
- blurred vision;
- ear congestion;
- noise in the head;
- ringing in the ears;
- sleep apnea;
- hearing impairment;
- weakness of the vocal cords;
- cramps in the neck;
- changes in blood pressure;
- numbness of the tongue;
- swelling of the neck;
- pain in the eyes;
- vasospasm of the neck;
- dental problems.
With lesions of the spine in the thoracic region, the following phenomena occur:
- muscle spasm, resembling heart pains of a cutting, stabbing and sharp character;
- the patient has difficulty breathing;
- sternum pain and burning;
- there is a lump in the throat;
- possible cough and nausea;
- pains in the abdomen appear, especially during deep inhalation and exhalation;
- there is severe weakness in the arms and legs;
- discomfort increases with a change in body position.
For problems in the sacral or lumbar spine, the following complaints appear:
- back pain radiating to the legs;
- freezing of the lower extremities at normal body temperature;
- numbness in the legs;
- constant tension in the leg muscles;
- varicose veins;
- pallor of the skin;
As the back osteochondrosis progresses, several vertebrae may fuse. Then the symptomatology gradually fades away, but reappears during the spring-autumn exacerbation.
If the vagus nerve is pinched, digestion, heart rate, and bladder and bladder problems can occur.
Syndromes in osteochondrosis
It is customary among doctors to divide symptoms into groups, syndromes. With intercostal osteochondrosis, there are:
- vertebral syndrome;
- vertebral artery syndrome;
- cardiac or scapular-rib syndrome;
It is worth taking a closer look at each of the syndromes.
With vertebral syndrome, the following picture is observed:
- mobility is impaired and neck soreness occurs;
- changes in the state of the vertebrae are visible on x-ray;
- the patient cannot turn his head to the side painlessly.
Important! When diagnosing, the doctor should differentiate myositis and vertebral syndrome, since the clinical picture is similar, but the methods of treatment are different.
With this syndrome of osteochondrosis, the following manifestations are observed:
- nausea, vomiting;
- pressure surges;
- flies in the eyes;
- violation of emotional stability.
The doctor should differentiate this syndrome from atherosclerotic changes in the vessels and tumor processes.
This syndrome is characterized by:
- chest pain;
- shortness of breath;
When visiting a hospital, an ECG and an angiography must be performed, which confirms the absence of atherosclerosis.
Pathological signs depend on which roots have undergone changes. In general, this group of symptoms includes:
- discomfort in the occipital area;
- unpleasant sensations in the language;
- Difficulty chewing food;
- pain when swallowing;
- discomfort in the scapular area;
- Difficulty performing hand movements;
- not possession of 4 and 5 fingers.
Since most often several parts of the spine are involved in the pathological process in osteochondrosis, whole groups of symptoms arise.
When symptoms of osteochondrosis appear, as a rule, tests are not taken.
Some of the following tests are sufficient to make a diagnosis:
- computed tomography;
- magnetic resonance imaging.
Although a conventional X-ray examination allows for a diagnosis, CT and MRI are used to more effectively select drugs and determine the degree of damage to the spinal column.
Treatment of osteochondrosis
Both during an exacerbation and during planned therapy, treatment should be comprehensive. Applies to:
- medication treatment;
- manual therapy;
- Exercise therapy for osteochondrosis.
The most common treatment is at home. The main thing is that the patient strictly adheres to the doctor's prescription. When a patient needs injections, a day hospital may be recommended.
Peculiarities of drug treatment
Treatment with drugs involves the use of several groups of drugs at once. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed.
NSAIDs are initially prescribed as ointments. As the disease progresses, tablets, injections, or another form of antispasmodic may be recommended. Almost all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have a pronounced analgesic effect.
In order for the spine to relax, you need to relieve muscle spasm. For these purposes, muscle relaxants are used.
If treatment is started in the early stages of the disease, when the cartilage tissue has not yet been destroyed, it makes sense to take chondroprotectors.
Important! In order for all these drugs to have any effect, they must be taken systematically, at least for six months.
Complexes of B vitamins can have a positive effect on recovery.
The following drugs may also be prescribed:
- to expand blood vessels and improve nutrition;
- to combat vertigo;
- topical gel to improve blood circulation.
Compresses, mustard plasters, and special anesthetic plasters with a medicinal composition are placed on the affected areas.
Performing manual therapy
Although it is believed that massage of the neck and other affected areas is a folk method, this judgment is erroneous. Such procedures can only be carried out after a doctor's prescription and careful training. Wrong actions can cause even more harm.
You can massage with honey, or with any medicated oils. The following techniques are used:
- light strokes with fingertips are carried out, starting from the head to the upper back;
- rubbing in progress;
- squeezing to engage deep tissue layers;
Cupping massage is effective. Self-massage can be performed. It is highly undesirable to use massagers without consulting your doctor, since an imprudent influence can damage already fragile discs.
The value of exercise therapy in osteochondrosis
To get rid of the symptoms of osteochondrosis, it is important to regularly carry out a set of exercises for the back. Now there are many popular techniques for the formation of the lumbar and cervical corset. Let's consider only the most effective ones and briefly discuss their essence.
Kinesitherapy doctor's neck gymnastics helps to improve blood circulation, relieve pain and restore freedom of movement. Does not give a quick effect, the result is only after long-term therapy. In addition to exercising, it is important to consider the prescribed treatment and diet. All exercises are carried out at a very slow pace, in the process, proper muscle stretching is ensured.
Therapeutic exercises for the neck of another doctor for osteochondrosis is useful not only for people with osteochondrosis, but also for many other problems. The complex resembles more exercises for the neck, and classes can be carried out even at lunchtime. To achieve results and strengthen muscles, you must exercise regularly and only after the appointment of your doctor.
General recommendations in the treatment of osteochondrosis
Since patients with osteochondrosis need careful periodic warming up, a visit to the bath will be useful for such a patient. It's just important to take into account the stage of the disease and the presence of other pathologies. Before such a procedure, you should consult a doctor.
To strengthen the muscle corset, you can use push-ups, fitness and Pilates with a trainer. It is necessary to visit the pool regularly. Each swimming session should not be shorter than 20 minutes, otherwise there will be no effect.
Treatment with folk remedies is allowed, but only after agreement with the attending physician and as an auxiliary therapy. Physiotherapy, including electrophoresis, can be performed as directed by a physician.
Even if the problems with the spine seem insignificant, or the patient is still a child, it is still important to actively engage in the prevention of osteochondrosis.
It is important to observe the following best practices:
- use orthopedic sleep pillows;
- lead an active lifestyle;
- set aside time for sports, especially swimming;
- warm up several times a day;
- be careful when doing physically demanding work;
- give up bad habits.
Diet is important, as certain foods increase the risk of disease, namely:
- smoked meats;
- fatty and fried foods.
It is important to limit soda and coffee, and it is better to give preference to tea and broths. Proper nutrition will help protect the body from damage to bone and cartilage tissue.
Since the process can be stopped and even reversed in the initial stages of osteochondrosis, it is necessary to immediately consult a doctor and undergo an examination when the first symptoms appear. This is the only way to maintain physical activity for many years!