Osteochondrosis of the neck is a degenerative disease, in which the "wear and tear" of the intervertebral discs, joints and vertebrae in the cervical spine occurs in the true sense of the word.
Some information about the disease:
- Osteochondrosis of the neck occurs approximately equally in men and women.
- People between the ages of 30 and 60 often get sick.
- As a rule, pathology occurs in people who have to be in the same position at work and perform monotonous actions.
- The cervical spine has some structural features, so the disease can show very different manifestations.
What features of the cervical spine cause symptoms of osteochondrosis?
- There are holes in the lateral processes of the vertebrae - through which the carotid arteries pass blood from the brain to the right and left.
- The initial part of the spinal cord passes through the cervical region - it consists of fibers that carry nerve impulses to all parts of the body, providing movement and sensitivity. If there is compression of the spinal cord in the neck, neurological diseases occur all over the body.
- This part of the spine is highly mobile and is prone to osteochondrosis (although in most cases the disease still develops in the lumbar region - in addition to high mobility, it also experiences the greatest stress).
- In the neck, nerve roots extend from the intervertebral foramen to form the cervical and brachial plexuses. They are responsible for movements in the neck, arm and shoulder girdle muscles, skin sensitivity and regulation of autonomic functions.
- The first vertebra does not have a massive anterior part - the body - a bony ring attached to the tooth - a bony growth in the second vertebra. In this way, the head can turn to the sides.
Neck pain, headache, weakness, numbness in the hands are the symptoms that should make you see a neurologist. Examination by a specialist and the use of modern equipment will help to understand the causes of the pathology and take the most effective measures.
What happens to the vertebrae in cervical osteochondrosis?
The obscure medical term "degenerative process" refers to the following pathological changes in the cervical spine:
- First of all, the lesion in osteochondrosis covers the intervertebral discs. They become thinner, so the distance between adjacent vertebrae is reduced. Small tears and micro-cracks appear on the outer parts. Over time, this can lead to a herniated disc.
- As a result of disc damage, the stability of the vertebral joint is impaired.
- Suffers from osteochondrosis of the cervical spine and intervertebral joints - develops spondyloarthritis. It also helps to compress nerve roots.
- The pathological process extends to the vertebrae themselves. Due to the dysfunction of the intervertebral discs, the load on them increases. The spine tries to compensate for this disorder, on which bone growths - osteophytes - appear.
Treatment of cervical spine osteochondrosis
In case of exacerbation of osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae, traction is used to relax the intervertebral discs (the patient's head is placed on a raised bed and the head is straightened with a special loop). You should wear a Shants collar for the same purpose. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to relieve the pain. In the case of severe pain that does not pass in any way, the doctor may block: apply an anesthetic solution to the affected nerve root area. Physiotherapy is used: ultrasound treatment, electrophoresis with novocaine.
When the severity decreases, treatment of cervical spine osteochondrosis includes massage, physiotherapy exercises, physiotherapy.
One of the main symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis is neck pain. Many people who experience this symptom do not consult a doctor, but prefer to treat "chondrosis" at home. There are at least two good reasons to refuse self-medication and consult a specialist.
First, painkillers and folk remedies, although they help reduce pain for a while, do not solve the main problem. Pathological changes in the spine continue to grow. Over time, this threatens more serious consequences. To the point where surgery may be required.
Second, neck pain is not limited to osteochondrosis. There are other reasons. Only a doctor can understand and prescribe the right treatment.
What are the symptoms of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine that should make you see a doctor?
The main symptom of cervical osteochondrosis is pain. Depending on the level of localization of the pathological process, it can occur in different places: in the neck, shoulder girdle, hands, heart area. Pain can be dull, burning, painful in nature.
Other manifestations of the disease:
- Headaches, dizziness, flying in front of eyes, noise, ringing in the ears.
- Weakness in neck, shoulder girdle, arm muscles.
- Skin sensitivity disorder.
- Shoulder-scapular periarthritis: painful neck pain extending to the arm, difficulty in escaping the arm above 90 °, weakness and atrophy of the shoulder girdle muscles.
- Shoulder-to-hand syndrome: pain in the shoulder and hand, swelling and stiffness of the fingers, weakness and atrophy of the hand muscles.
- Vertebral artery syndrome. Bone growths occur in the spinal cord, which compresses the nerves, resulting in a reflex spasm of the spinal artery, which is involved in the blood supply to the brain. Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis are accompanied by persistent headaches from the back of the head to the temples, to the crown of the head, nausea, noise in the head, ringing in the ears, trembling of bright spots in front of the eyes.
- Anterior skeletal muscle syndrome. There is an anterior and middle scalene muscle in the neck - they are located next to each other and there is a small space between them where nerves and blood vessels pass. With cervical lumbar osteochondrosis, the anterior scalene muscles tense and squeeze, resulting in symptoms such as pain on the inner surface of the forearm, shoulder, and fingers. Sometimes the pain spreads to the back of the head. The skin of the hand may become cold, pale, and numb.
- Epicondylitis Syndrome. In the lower part of the shoulder, on the sides of the elbow joint, there are bone protrusions - epicondyles. With epicondylitis syndrome caused by cervical osteochondrosis, they feel increased pain when pressed. Other symptoms include: neck pain, pain when pressing on certain points in the cervical vertebrae.
If cervicothoracic osteochondrosis affects two parts of the spine at once, symptoms include pain between the shoulder blades in the heart area.
The risk of intervertebral hernia and stroke increases during osteochondrosis. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, consult your doctor.
It is better not to self-medicate. Although you generally have tried and tested methods to help you manage your pain, this does not mean that you are doing it right.
Pain can be caused not only by osteochondrosis, but also by intervertebral hernia, muscle disorders (myofascial pain syndrome) and can be a symptom of other diseases. In order to treat the disease properly, you need to understand the causes and make a differential diagnosis. This is only possible in one clinic.
You should visit a neurologist and be examined to determine the cause of the disease and to properly treat the symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis.
At the heart of cervical osteochondrosis is the defeat of the intervertebral discs. The chemical composition is broken down, first swells, then decreases in size, cracks and tears appear on the outer parts, they become denser. Then the degenerative process spreads to the vertebrae, intervertebral joints. Due to a decrease in the height of the intervertebral disc, the load on the vertebrae increases, bone growths - osteophytes appear.
What are the causes of cervical spine osteochondrosis?
There is no consensus on the causes of cervical osteochondrosis. Different situations are thought to cause the disease, there are different views:
- Age-related changes in the spine. However, almost all people over the age of 40 have skeletal changes, but not everyone has osteochondrosis.
- Neck Injuries. Trauma is often among the causes of the disease: a damaged neck, compression fracture, vertebral subluxation. Chronic injuries, such as during intense training for athletes, bending postures that are constantly uncomfortable, and recurrent lash injuries in drivers can be important.
- Congenital anomalies of the vertebrae: cervical ribs, fusion of adjacent vertebrae, fusion of the first vertebra with the occipital bone, etc.
- Profession. More often, the disease affects people who work in a monotonous posture, constantly doing the same action.
- Disorders of spinal blood supply, venous insufficiency, edema in the nerve roots.
- Autoimmune diseases.Conditions in which the immune system does not work properly attack its own connective tissue, the body's ligaments.
See a neurologist. An experienced healthcare professional will understand the source of your health problems and prescribe the right treatment.
Causes of exacerbation of cervical osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis occurs when the symptoms stop bothering you for a while, in the form of alternating periods of exacerbation and improvement. Another ignition can be caused by:
- Awkward, shaky neck movement.
- Stay in a monotonous restless state for a long time. For example, after working on a computer for a long time, you may have neck pain after lying on an uncomfortable pillow.
- Stress, nervous tension. Chronic stress causes spasms in the neck muscles, which can lead to the onset of another inflammation.
- Various diseases, exacerbation of chronic diseases.
- Hypothermia. For this reason, exacerbations in many people occur in the fall.
- Wrong, illiterate self-medication. For example, massage and therapeutic exercises are useful in remission, but contraindicated in exacerbation.
What diseases can show similar manifestations?
Often, the manifestations of "osteochondrosis" are actually associated with a completely different disease. For example, the cause may be hidden in the muscles - there is a condition such as myofascial pain syndrome. The pain is caused by the constant tension of the same muscles.
Sometimes the manifestation of "cervical osteochondrosis" is perceived as dizziness associated with otolithiasis - it is the accumulation of crystals of calcium salts in the inner ear.
Pain and tightness in the neck, headache - when these symptoms occur, many people are "diagnosed" with osteochondrosis. Everything is clear - when you are in pain, you need to take painkillers or injections, apply heat, and everything will pass. Why consult a doctor when you can cope on your own?
However, in most cases, self-medication does not lead to anything good. Over time, painful attacks can become faster, stronger and longer. If you take painkillers almost every day unsupervised, you may have stomach or kidney problems. After all, any drug has side effects.
The cause of pain is not always the root cause of osteochondrosis. You need to see a doctor and get tested to find the real cause and how to deal with it effectively.
How does a neurologist diagnose cervical osteochondrosis? What happens in the doctor's office during the examination?
On your first visit, the neurologist will ask you some questions:
- How long have you had headaches and neck pains?
- Where does the pain occur? What character do they have: stabbing, hurting, pulling, pulling?
- When does pain generally occur? What motivates? How do you feel afterwards?
- Have you seen a doctor yet? Have you been examined and treated? Which one? How long ago?
- What other symptoms are you worried about?
- What other chronic diseases do you have?
- Have you had a neck injury recently?
The doctor will then perform a neurological examination to check your reflexes, skin sensitivity, muscle strength and tone. You will be asked to turn around, tilt your head to the sides, forward and backward. The doctor will gently press on certain points on your neck to determine the onset of pain.
After the examination, you will be diagnosed and the necessary diagnostic methods will be prescribed.
What diagnostic methods are used in cervical spine osteochondrosis?
Examination of cervical osteochondrosis generally includes the following diagnostic methods:
- Radiography of the cervical spine.
- X-ray contrast studies are prescribed according to the indicators: myelography (application of contrast to the space around the spinal cord), discography (insertion of contrast into the intervertebral disc), angiography (insertion of contrast into the vessels).
- Computed tomography.
- Magnetic resonance imaging.
- In severe neurological diseases, you may be prescribed electroneuromyography - a study that determines the conduction of electrical impulses in the nerves and muscles.
Often the manifestations of cervical osteochondrosis are similar to angina pectoris. If, after the examination, the doctor still suspects a diagnosis, you will be prescribed an ECG and other diagnostic methods.