The trend towards an increase in degenerative-dystrophic lesions of the spine is steadily increasing 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
Talking about the causes of degenerative lesions of the cervical spine, one can list genetic, toxic, metabolic endocrine, infectious and others. First and foremost, however, you can maintain a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a computer, desk and driving.
Frequent stress helps in the development of this pathology, as a result of which the posture inevitably bends and the blood vessels of the cervical nerves are pinched.
Symptoms of pain in the neck should not be ignored, as it leads to the progression of the disease and the development of complications such as periarthrosis of the shoulder blade, vertebral artery syndrome, scalene anterior syndrome and radicular syndrome.
About the anatomical structure
Now let's see which anatomical and physiological features of the structure of the cervical spine contribute to the development and progression of osteochondrosis:
- The neck region is the most flexible part of the spine. Since all kinds of movements are possible in it, it increases the risk of subluxation and frequent violations;
- The vertebral artery runs in a canal that is formed in the openings of the transverse processes of the vertebrae. It supplies the brain, the auditory organs, the spinal nerve and the cerebellum with blood. With the development of degenerative-dystrophic changes, the artery and nerve in this section can become pinched.
- In the cervical spine, the intervertebral discs are not located everywhere between the vertebrae. In the front part, the vertebrae are connected by joints, which can lead to subluxation of the joints.
- The holes in the three lower cervical vertebrae are triangular in shape and can injure nerve roots as bone tissue grows in osteochondrosis.
- The vegetative ganglia are located along the cervical spine.
These functions help us to visualize the mechanism of development of complications of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.
Mechanisms of the development of changes in the cervical spine
The pathological process begins in the disc with the loss of moisture through the nucleus pulposus of the disc. The annulus fibrosus gradually thins, its elasticity decreases, and microcracks appear.
As a result, the disc loses its ability to hold, cushion and support. The load on the lower vertebrae gradually increases, after which the vertebra itself is involved in the process.
Small defects appear and osteophytes (overgrowth of bone tissue) grow to withstand the increased stress.
When bone tissue grows along the posterior vertebral wall, the nerve roots are compressed, and when they run along the lateral surface, the vertebral artery is compromised.
Joint subluxations occur due to an imbalance between the vertebrae. This creates compensatory tension in the neck muscles, which helps 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. This creates a vicious circle in which spasmodic muscles and damaged vertebrae mutually affect each other and lead to a deterioration in the patient's condition.
Symptoms of the disease are formed based on pathological mechanisms. So the compression of the nerve roots manifests itself in severe paroxysmal pain along the strangled nerve.
And with compression of the vertebral artery, the 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 traditionally divided into three groups:
The first group of symptoms - sensations of pain
It appears as:
- local back of the head / neck pain;
- radiant pain that spreads to the right or left hand and can also be transmitted to the fingers of the hands, the hand, the forearm and even the shoulder joints.
This pain can be painful and constant, irritating, and spreading to the entire neck or arms. Or it is a locally more acute shooting pain caused by pinching the nerve root.
The second group of symptoms are movement disorders
First of all, this is the stiffness of the muscles of the neck and the back of the head, which makes it 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 known as the syndrome of shoulder-scapula periarthrosis. It can also spread to the entire arm, including numbness of the fingers, numbness of the hand, and numbness along the side surface of the shoulder or forearm.
The third group of symptoms are vegetative-vascular manifestations, vascular manifestations
Either vasospasm or pinching in the spine occurs. As a result, symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis such as headache, dizziness, blinking "flies" may appear before the eyes appear.
Hearing disorders can also occur - tinnitus and a "sulfur plug" sensation that makes a person unable to hear well. These symptoms are related to vertebral artery syndrome.
Methods of traditional treatment of cervical osteochondrosis
Modern medicine offers many methods for treating degenerative-dystrophic lesions of the spine. Among them are: drug treatment, manual therapy, folk remedies, physical therapy (exercise therapy), and in advanced cases, resort to surgical treatments. The effectiveness of therapy depends on the stage at which treatment is started and the methods chosen.
Treatment should primarily aim to normalize the muscle tone of the cervical spine. The action of the remaining funds is aimed at relieving inflammation and pain with the development of pathological changes.
An important point in the treatment of osteochondrosis is good, comfortable sleep, for which experts recommend the use of 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 relax spasmodic muscles and stop the progression of the pathological process.
Treatment of osteochondrosis should include physical therapy exercises in the form of medical gymnastics or morning hygiene. When performing a series of therapeutic exercises, keep the following recommendations in mind:
- wear comfortable clothes and shoes;
- To avoid shortness of breath, alternate regular exercises with breathing.
- The load should increase gradually. If you experience any discomfort about the cardiovascular system during the class, stop exercising and consult a doctor.
- If you experience pain in your cervical spine during class, replace it with relaxation and stretching exercises.
- Check your general health, breathing and pulse during the class.
- If abduction and resistance exercises cause a lot of pain, 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,
- restoration of blood flow;
- increasing the mobility of the vertebrae;
- Increase the range of motion in the cervical spine.
- Pain relief and restoration of innervation;
- Prevention of exacerbations.
Most neuropathologists and other specialists do not advocate the treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine without medication. The most popular are drugs from the group of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are used in the form of injections, tablets, gels and ointments.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs relieve pain, inflammation, and swelling. This restores the tone of the neck muscles, improves the metabolism in the affected area, and releases the compression on nerve roots and blood vessels.
It is advisable to use drugs from the group of muscle relaxants, which are also effective in relieving muscle spasms while restoring their tone. However, drugs should be used with caution, especially in those with allergies.
Preparations from the corticosteroid group have received good reviews in the treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.
The injectable drug is very popular due to its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
If the treatment described does not work, resort to paravertebral blockade with pain relievers or steroids.
Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis with non-traditional methods
Proponents of unconventional therapies can benefit from the following treatments.
- Acupuncturehelps to relieve the patient of pain, relieve swelling and relax cramped muscles, as well as relieve the functional compression of nerves and arteries. When fingers become numb, it is advisable to attach needles to biologically active sites on the hand and auricle.
- Manual therapyhelps restore normal blood flow to the neck, relieves muscle spasms, and relieves pinched nerves. Stretching the spine must be done with great care by a professional.
- Hirudotherapy (leech therapy)is an inexpensive and quite effective treatment method. The procedure is to place leeches on biologically active points, which should be repeated in 10 sessions. This method helps restore blood flow to the cervical spine, relieve swelling and inflammation.
- Acupressure massageis a finger effect on biologically active points and helps to relieve muscle spasms, improve blood circulation, relieve swelling, pain and inflammation.
- Traditional treatment methodscan be used successfully at home. These are various decoctions and infusions that you can prepare yourself (infusion of wormwood, infusion of lilac flowers, infusion of garlic). Medicinal baths made from mint, chamomile, sage and calamus rhizomes work well.
After the specified treatment methods 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.