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 the pathology and the causes of the disease.
What is osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis is a disease in which the intervertebral discs and other tissues of the spinal column are affected. Dystrophic processes are activated within the spinal column. The vertebra, as it were, compresses, squeezes these discs, which gradually leads to pinching of the nerve endings of the spinal cord.
Important! If osteochondrosis is not treated, the pathology can cause disability.
About 80% of the world population suffers from spinal pathologies. Osteochondrosis is most often diagnosed among people between the ages of 15 and 30. Although the disease occurs in both men and women, a good half of humanity is more difficult to tolerate this ailment.
The disease begins to develop and manifests 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 from all over the world have joined forces to eradicate the disease, new cases of osteochondrosis are recorded every year. Whether problems arise depends a lot on the personal efforts of the individual.
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 the same time. For example, osteochondrosis of the lumbosacral region is often found, since it is this part of the spine that undergoes a constant increase in load.
Whatever type of disease a person encounters, the complications are always serious. Therefore, it is important to identify the disease as soon as possible and provide qualified first aid.
When a doctor makes a diagnosis, note at what stage the pathology is detected. With osteochondrosis, 3 stages are distinguished based on the image of an x-ray examination and 4 stages based on symptomatic changes.
What happens during the disease
Almost all vertebrae have a similar structure. They consist of a vertebral body and an arch. All the vertebrae, "folded" together, form a spinal canal. The discs are located between the vertebrae - gelatinous 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 moves by itself and looks for a place where it is easier to do this.
In most cases, the disc exits into the spinal canal. This leads to compression of the spinal cord and the nerves located there. The result is pain and symptoms in the organs these nerves are responsible for.
In response to pressure in the body, the processes of accelerated division of bone tissue are activated. As a result, the development of osteophytes begins - bone growths that cause a person the main problems 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 causes the onset of the disease. Regardless of where the disease is located, its causes are always similar.
The main reasons why osteochondrosis can develop are the following:
- premature aging of tissues in the intervertebral discs;
- constant overload of the muscles that support the spine;
- lack of reasonable stress on these muscle groups;
- uneven distribution of the load between parts of the spine, leading to imbalance and the development of pseudospondylolisthesis;
- the presence of a genetic predisposition to the development of degenerative processes in cartilage tissues;
- the presence of autoimmune diseases, due to which their own antibodies disrupt the nutrition of the spine.
Undoubtedly, hormonal imbalances and poor nutrition can also affect the health of the spine. Some women have experienced the first symptoms of the disease during pregnancy when the workload has increased.
Acute osteochondrosis usually develops after exposure to negative factors. The following factors can trigger the appearance of symptoms:
- incorrect posture;
- sedentary lifestyle;
- prolonged positioning in an uncomfortable position;
- heavy weight lifting;
- 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 an unfavorable ecology;
- prolonged hypothermia;
- to get hurt;
- 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 earlier the first signs of the disease are detected and the diagnosis is made, the better the chances of treating the pathology and maintaining the quality of life.
Phased disease characteristics
There are 4 stages of the disease and each has its own intensity of symptoms:
- with grade 1 disease, the patient has no general symptoms, but there may be only localized pain;
- with osteochondrosis of the 2nd degree, the pain becomes stronger, protrusion of the discs and subluxation of the vertebral bodies develop, violations of statics are observed;
- grade 3 osteochondrosis is characterized by significant symptoms, including general ones, and the lesion reaches the stage of development of the intervertebral hernia;
- in 4 stages of the pathology, a disability occurs and any drug no longer brings 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 subdivided according to damage to the vertebral body:
- no violation in phase 0;
- at the 1st stage the ailments are insignificant, sometimes there are internal tears in the vertebrae;
- at the 2nd stage, the 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 in the spinal cord area or outward.
If minor symptoms occur, even lumbar spine instability or discomfort in any other area, 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 loss;
- weakness of the vocal cords;
- neck cramps;
- changes in blood pressure;
- numbness of the tongue;
- swelling of the neck;
- eye pain;
- vasospasm of the neck;
- dental problems.
With injuries of the spine in the thoracic region, the following phenomena occur:
- muscle spasm, similar to heart pains of a sharp, stabbing and acute nature;
- the patient has difficulty breathing;
- pain in the sternum and burning;
- there is a lump in the throat;
- possible cough and nausea;
- abdominal pain appears, 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 with the sacral or lumbar spine, the following complaints are displayed:
- back pain radiating to the legs;
- freezing of the lower limbs at normal body temperature;
- numbness in the legs;
- constant tension in the leg muscles;
- varicose veins;
- pallor of the skin;
As osteochondrosis of the back progresses, several vertebrae can fuse. Then the symptomatology gradually fades, but reappears during the spring-autumn exacerbation.
If the vagus nerve is pinched, problems with 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;
- heart 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 pain occurs;
- changes in the state of the vertebrae are visible on X-rays;
- the patient cannot turn his head to the side painlessly.
Important! During the diagnosis, the doctor should differentiate myositis and vertebral syndrome, since the clinical picture is similar, but the methods of treatment are different.
With this osteochondrosis syndrome, the following manifestations are observed:
- nausea, vomiting;
- pressure peaks;
- flies into 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 angiography should be performed, which confirm 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 tongue;
- Difficulty chewing food;
- pain when swallowing;
- discomfort in the shoulder area;
- Difficulty in performing hand movements;
- does not possess 4 and 5 fingers.
Since more often than not different parts of the spine are involved in the pathological process of osteochondrosis, whole groups of symptoms arise.
When symptoms of osteochondrosis appear, as a rule, tests are not carried out.
Some of the following tests are sufficient to make a diagnosis:
- computed tomography;
Although conventional radiographic examination allows for diagnosis, CT and MRI are used to more effectively select drugs and determine the degree of damage to the spine.
Treatment of osteochondrosis
Both during an exacerbation and during planned therapy, treatment must be comprehensive. Applies to:
- drug treatment;
- manual therapy;
- Physical 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 pharmacological treatment
Drug treatment involves the use of multiple drug groups at the same time. 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 marked analgesic effect.
In order for the spine to relax, it is necessary to relieve muscle spasm. For these purposes, muscle relaxants are used.
If the 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! For all these drugs to take effect, they must be taken systematically, at least for six months.
Complexes of vitamins of group B 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 applied to the affected areas.
Performing manual therapy
Although massage of the neck and other affected areas is believed to be a popular method, this judgment is incorrect. Such procedures can be carried out only after a doctor's prescription and careful training. Wrong actions can cause even more damage.
You can massage with honey or any medicated oil. The following techniques are used:
- light strokes are performed with the fingertips, starting from the head to the upper back;
- rubbing in progress;
- squeeze to engage the deep tissue layers;
The cupping massage is effective. Self-massage is possible. It is highly undesirable to use massagers without consulting your doctor, as careless influence can damage already fragile discs.
The value of physical therapy in osteochondrosis
To get rid of the symptoms of osteochondrosis, it is important to regularly perform a set of back exercises. There are now 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 cervical gymnastics helps improve blood circulation, relieve pain and restore freedom of movement. It does not give a quick effect, the result is only after long-term therapy. In addition to exercise, it is important to consider the prescribed treatment and follow the diet. All exercises are performed at a very slow pace, in the process proper muscle stretching is ensured.
Another doctor's therapeutic neck exercises for osteochondrosis are useful not only for people with osteochondrosis, but also for many other problems. The complex resembles multiple exercises for the neck, and classes can also be done at lunchtime. To achieve results and strengthen muscles, you need to exercise regularly and only after the doctor's appointment.
General recommendations for the treatment of osteochondrosis
Since patients with osteochondrosis require careful periodic warming, a visit to the bathroom will be useful for such a patient. It is only 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 pushups, fitness and Pilates with a trainer. It is necessary to visit the pool regularly. Each swimming session should not be less than 20 minutes, otherwise there will be no effect.
Treatment with folk remedies is allowed, but only by agreement with the attending physician and as an auxiliary therapy. Physiotherapy, including electrophoresis, can be done as directed by a doctor.
Even if spinal problems 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 pillows for sleeping;
- lead an active lifestyle;
- devotes time to sports, especially swimming;
- warm up several times a day;
- be careful when doing physically demanding jobs;
- give up bad habits.
Diet is important, as some 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 interrupted and even reversed in the early stages of osteochondrosis, you should 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!