Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a common degenerative disease, fraught with many complications and consequences. Pathology is characterized by slow but inexorable destruction of the cartilaginous tissue of the vertebrae and intervertebral discs and further involvement in destructive processes of ligaments, muscles, and bone structures.
Without adequate and timely therapy, osteochondrosis leads to protrusions, herniated intervertebral discs: these diseases can cause disability and various functional disorders. Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis is a long, gradual and complex process that should be carried out under the guidance of qualified specialists.
Causes and symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine has a number of significant features based on the purely anatomical properties of this section. The vertebrae of the neck are much smaller than the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and are more mobile. The cervical spine has a constant load, even when the body is at rest: the vertebrae need to hold the head and interact with the musculo-ligamentous apparatus of the neck.
The more mobile the vertebrae, the higher the risk of degenerative diseases. Another feature is the presence in the cervical zone of a large number of important nerve plexuses. In this section, the vertebral artery passes, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain and cerebellum. Compression of blood vessels caused by displacement of discs in osteochondrosis leads to cerebral ischemia, and this is fraught with strokes, impaired cognitive abilities, impairment of hearing, vision, memory, attention, and sleep disorders.
The compactness of this section is an additional risk factor for displacement of the vertebral structures. The slightest violation of the anatomical status of the spine causes spasmodic phenomena in the muscles, neurological and vascular symptoms. Edema and inflammation in the nerve roots cause severe pain that cannot be relieved by analgesics, and compression of the spinal cord can cause sensory disturbances in the upper extremities.
Before figuring out how to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, you need to understand what causes this disease. Most of the causes can be eliminated in a timely manner, preventing complications and progression of degenerative processes.
The following factors influence the development of pathology:
- Poor posture, prolonged exposure to one position;
- Sedentary work and inclination to passive rest;
- Injuries and trauma of the cervical spine;
- Hereditary predisposition;
- Excess mass;
- Deficiency of some microelements;
- The presence of chronic foci of infection in the body;
- Age-related dystrophic processes in the tissues of the spine;
- Exposure to toxins and certain medications;
- Sleeping on an uncomfortable pillow or overly soft surface;
In rare cases, the causes of cervical osteochondrosis are systemic autoimmune diseases - lupus erythematosus, systemic polyarthritis. In most clinical situations, the development of the disease is influenced by several pathogenic factors at once - damage, the nature of work, errors in the diet.
The success of treatment depends largely on the correct diagnosis. Diagnostic measures are aimed not only at determining the disease, but also at finding out its causes. The doctor needs to make a detailed anamnesis, taking into account the duration and intensity of symptoms, hereditary factors, lifestyle and nutritional status of the patient, and the presence of concomitant diseases in the patient.
The following procedures are assigned:
- Radiography (including with the use of contrast);
- Blood test;
- MRI, CT and ultrasound;
- Puncture of the spinal cord for bacteriological examination (in rare cases);
- Motor tests.
Modern imaging techniques (MRI and CT) make it possible to accurately determine the localization of degenerative processes, detect compression of blood vessels and nerve endings. In some cases, cardiac studies are prescribed.
Modern methods of therapy
How exactly to treat osteochondrosis of the spine, the doctor decides on the basis of the diagnosis and the current state of the patient. Some people believe that osteochondrosis is a temporary ailment and goes away on its own. People deliberately ignore back pain, believing that they are caused by fatigue, injury, "salt deposition". It should be understood that degenerative processes in the spine are irreversible, and the earlier treatment is started, the more effective one will be.
Using folk techniques is not a very smart option either. Most unconventional methods can only temporarily stop the symptoms of the disease, without affecting the causes in any way. Only a specialist (orthopedist or vertebrologist) can prescribe a therapy that is adequate for your current condition.
The main tasks of the treatment are to stop degenerative tissue transformations, relieve the patient from excruciating pain and restore the functional status of the vertebral structures, strengthening the ligamentous-muscular apparatus. The therapeutic goal is to prevent complications of the disease.
Methods for treating osteochondrosis of the neck are divided into conservative and radical. Most of the clinical manifestations are eliminated with conservative therapy. For each patient, doctors develop an individual treatment regimen: there is no single therapeutic protocol for osteochondrosis.
At the first stage, it is necessary to remove pain symptoms, inflammation (if any), to improve blood circulation and nutrition. Next comes the recovery stage. Patients should be patient and strictly follow the recommendations of specialists: to achieve sustainable results, you need to be ready for long and varied therapy.
Methods for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, practiced in modern clinics:
- Medicinal effects;
- Manual therapy;
- Hardware massage;
- Psychosomatic relief;
- Surgical intervention.
Let's consider the most relevant methods in more detail.
The drugs are used mainly at the initial stage of treatment. The goals of using the drugs are to relieve pain, inflammation, stimulate blood circulation and metabolism, and establish healthy tissue nutrition. External medicines are mainly used - ointments, gels. Less commonly, pills and injections are used.
The main groups of drugs prescribed for osteochondrosis of the neck:
- Topical ointments containing analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
- Corticosteroids (given as intramuscular or epidural injections);
- Muscle relaxants - relieve muscle spasms;
- Vitamins to stimulate metabolism and improve cell and tissue nutrition.
Professional drug therapy is mandatory in the acute stage of the disease. It helps to stabilize the patient's condition and prepare him for further treatment.
Most professional vertebrologists consider physiotherapy to be the most effective method of treating osteochondrosis. Physiotherapy involves the impact on the body of natural factors and hardware.
A stable and pronounced healing effect is produced by such methods of treatment as:
- Balneotherapy (exposure to mineral waters);
- Mud therapy;
- Paraffin and ozokerite applications;
- Kinesio taping - the imposition of special adhesive years on the affected areas;
- Exposure to bee and snake venom;
- Hirudotherapy (leech therapy);
- Shockwave therapy;
- Ultrasound treatment;
- Electro- and phonophoresis;
- Laser therapy;
- CMT (amplipulse therapy).
Physiotherapy is used both to relieve pain and to rehabilitate the spine and restore patient activity.
Manual therapy and apparatus massage
Professional massage is no less effective than physiotherapy. It is important that the manipulations are performed by a trained and competent specialist, since the risk of injury in the cervical spine is very high. The massage improves blood circulation, improves nutrition, relieves fatigue, stimulates lymph flow, eliminates muscle tension, relaxes the ligaments, and accelerates the regeneration of soft tissues. Additionally, there is a psychosomatic unloading of the patient.
At home, it is allowed to use the simplest massage equipment - hand-held massagers, applicators. Electric massagers produce a good therapeutic effect - they can also be used for preventive purposes.
The action on certain biologically active points of the body also gives a therapeutic result in some situations. Reflexology (acupuncture) is carried out using acupuncture, moxibustion or acupressure. A prerequisite for performing such procedures is the participation of a certified specialist and strict adherence to sanitary standards.
Gymnastics for cervical osteochondrosis is mandatory at the recovery stage. If patients do not want to allow relapses and progression of the disease, they must strengthen the ligaments and muscles and stimulate blood flow in the affected area. These results can be achieved with regular gymnastic exercises.
The exercise therapy complex is developed by the instructor or directly by the attending physician: all the nuances of the disease and the patient's condition should be taken into account. At the first stage, the loads should be minimal: tissue should not be injured and overloaded. In the future, gymnastics of the cervical spine should become a kind of habit: exercises can be performed while doing work, relaxing in front of the TV.
For the condition of the spine and nearby tissues, nutrition is of no small importance. Patients with osteochondrosis should eat varied and rationally. It is necessary to exclude from the menu "fast" carbohydrates, fast food, canned food, fatty meat. Dishes with mucopolysaccharides must be present - jellied meat, jellies, jelly.
Surgical intervention for osteochondrosis is rarely used. Operations are performed if conservative treatment does not give any results or if there is severe compression of the spinal cord, fraught with the development of paralysis. Sometimes surgery is used to remove osteophytes - bone growths on the body of the vertebrae and discs.