Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a common degenerative disease that is fraught with many complications and consequences. The pathology is characterized by a slow but unstoppable destruction of the cartilage tissue of the vertebrae and intervertebral discs, as well as further involvement in destructive processes of the ligaments, muscles and bone structures.
Without adequate and timely therapy, osteochondrosis leads to protrusions and herniated discs: These diseases can lead to disabilities 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 professionals.
Causes and symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine exhibits a number of important features that are based on the purely anatomical characteristics of this section. The cervical vertebrae are much smaller and more flexible than the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. The cervical spine is constantly stressed even when the body is at rest: the vertebrae have to hold the head and interact with the musculo-ligamentous apparatus of the neck.
The more flexible the vertebrae, the higher the risk of degenerative diseases. Another feature is the presence of a large number of important nerve plexuses in the cervical area. This section is where the vertebral artery runs and supplies the brain and cerebellum with oxygen and nutrients. The compression of blood vessels caused by the dislocation of intervertebral discs in osteochondrosis leads to cerebral ischemia, which is fraught with strokes, impaired cognitive abilities, hearing, vision, memory, attention and sleep disorders.
The compactness of this section is an additional risk factor for the 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 analgesics cannot relieve, and compression of the spinal cord can lead to sensory disturbances in the upper extremities.
Before figuring out how to treat cervical spine osteochondrosis, you need to understand what causes this disease. Most of the causes can be eliminated in a timely manner, which will prevent complications and the progression of degenerative processes.
The following factors influence the development of the pathology:
- Poor posture, prolonged exposure to one position;
- Lack of exercise and tendency to passive rest;
- injuries and trauma to the cervical spine;
- Hereditary disposition;
- excess mass;
- lack of some microelements;
- The presence of chronic foci of infection in the body;
- Age-related dystrophic processes in the tissue of the spine;
- exposure to toxins and certain drugs;
- sleeping on an uncomfortable pillow or an overly soft surface;
In rare cases, the causes of cervical osteochondrosis are systemic autoimmune diseases - lupus erythematosus, systemic polyarthritis. In most clinical situations, several pathogenic factors simultaneously affect the development of the disease - damage, type of work, errors in nutrition.
The success of the treatment largely depends on the correct diagnosis. Diagnostic measures are aimed not only at determining the disease, but also at finding out its causes. The doctor must take a detailed medical history that takes into account the duration and intensity of symptoms, hereditary factors, the patient's lifestyle and nutritional status, and the presence of any comorbidities in the patient.
The following procedures are assigned:
- Radiography (also using contrast);
- blood test;
- MRI, CT and ultrasound;
- puncture of the spinal cord for bacteriological examination (in rare cases);
- engine tests.
Modern imaging methods (MRT and CT) make it possible to precisely determine the localization of degenerative processes and to recognize the compression of blood vessels and nerve endings. In some cases, cardiac exams are required.
Modern therapy methods
How exactly the osteochondrosis of the spine is to be treated is decided by the doctor based on the diagnosis and the current condition of the patient. Some people believe that osteochondrosis is a temporary disease and will go away on its own. People purposely ignore back pain, believing that it is caused by fatigue, injury, and "salt build-up". It is understood that degenerative processes in the spine are irreversible, and the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it will be.
Using folk techniques isn't a very clever 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 therapy that is appropriate for your current condition.
The main tasks of treatment are to stop degenerative tissue transformations, relieve the patient of excruciating pain and restore the functional status of the vertebral structures, thereby strengthening the ligamentous-muscle apparatus. The therapeutic goal is to prevent complications of the disease.
Methods of treating osteochondrosis of the neck are divided into conservative and radical. Most clinical manifestations can be eliminated with conservative therapy. The doctors develop an individual treatment scheme for each patient: There is no single therapeutic protocol for osteochondrosis.
In the first stage, it is necessary to relieve pain symptoms, inflammation (if any), improve blood circulation and improve nutrition. Next comes the recovery phase. Patients should be patient and strictly adhere to the recommendations of specialists: in order to achieve sustainable results, you need to be prepared for a long and varied therapy.
Methods of treating cervical osteochondrosis that are practiced in modern clinics:
- Medical effects;
- manual therapy;
- hardware massage;
- Psychosomatic relief;
- Surgical intervention.
Let's take a closer look at the most important methods.
The drugs are mainly used in the early stages of treatment. The goals of using the drugs are to relieve pain, inflammation, stimulate blood circulation and metabolism, and create healthy tissue nutrition. External drugs are mainly used - ointments, gels. Pills and injections are less common.
The main groups of drugs prescribed for osteochondrosis of the neck:
- topical ointments that contain analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
- corticosteroids (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 vertebrates consider physical therapy to be the most effective method of treating osteochondrosis. Physiotherapy involves the impact of natural factors and hardware on the body.
A stable and pronounced healing effect is achieved through the following treatment methods:
- balneotherapy (exposure to mineral water);
- mud therapy;
- paraffin and ozokerite applications;
- Kinesio taping - the imposition of special years of glue on the affected areas;
- exposure to bee and snake venom;
- Hirudotherapy (leech therapy);
- shock wave therapy;
- ultrasound treatment;
- electro- and phonophoresis;
- laser therapy;
- CMT (amplipulse therapy).
Physiotherapy is used for both pain relief and spinal rehabilitation and restoring patient activity.
Manual therapy and device massage
Professional massage is no less effective than physiotherapy. It is important that the manipulations are carried out by a trained and competent specialist, since the risk of injury to the cervical spine is very high. The massage improves blood circulation, improves nutrition, relieves fatigue, stimulates lymph flow, relieves muscle tension, relaxes the ligaments and accelerates the regeneration of soft tissues. In addition, there is a psychosomatic relief for the patient.
At home, the simplest massage devices are allowed to be used - hand massagers, applicators. Electric massage devices have a good therapeutic effect - they can also be used preventively.
The effect on certain biologically active points of the body also leads to a therapeutic result in some situations. Reflexology (acupuncture) is performed using acupuncture, moxibustion or acupressure. The prerequisite for carrying out such procedures is the participation of a certified specialist and strict adherence to hygiene standards.
Exercise for cervical osteochondrosis is mandatory during the recovery phase. If patients do not want to allow the disease to relapse or progress, they need to strengthen ligaments and muscles and stimulate blood flow in the affected area. These results can be achieved with regular gymnastics 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. In the first phase, the loads should be minimal: tissue should not be injured and overloaded. In the future, doing gymnastics of the cervical spine should become a habit: exercises can be done during work and relaxed in front of the TV.
For the condition of the spine and the nearby tissue, nutrition is of no small importance. Patients with osteochondrosis should eat diversely and rationally. It is necessary to exclude from the menu "fast" carbohydrates, fast food, canned food, fatty meat. Mucopolysaccharide dishes must be present - jellied meat, jellies, jellies.
Surgical interventions for osteochondrosis are rarely used. Operations are performed when conservative treatment does not give results, or when there is severe compression of the spinal cord, which is fraught with the development of paralysis. Sometimes surgery is done to remove osteophytes - bone growth on the body of the vertebrae and intervertebral discs.