Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a common degenerative disease with many complications and consequences. The pathology is characterized by the slow but inescapable destruction of cartilage tissue in the vertebrae and intervertebral discs, as well as the further involvement of ligaments, muscles, and bone structures in destructive processes.
Without proper 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 must be performed under the guidance of trained professionals.
Causes and symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine has many basic features based on the purely anatomical features of this section. The cervical vertebrae are much smaller and more mobile than the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. The cervical spine has a constant load, even when the body is at rest: the vertebrae must hold the head and interact with the muscular ligament equipment of the neck.
The more agile the vertebrae, the greater the risk of degenerative diseases. Another feature is that there are a large number of important nerve braids in the neck area. At this stage, the vertebral artery passes through, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the brain and cerebellum. Compression of blood vessels caused by displacement of the plates in osteochondrosis leads to cerebral ischemia, which is associated with strokes, cognitive impairment, hearing, vision, memory, attention, and sleep disorders.
The compactness of this section is an additional risk factor in the displacement of vertebral structures. The slightest violation of the anatomical condition of the spine causes cramping in the muscles, neurological and vascular symptoms. Edema and inflammation of the nerve roots cause severe pain that cannot be relieved with painkillers, and spinal cord compression can cause sensory disturbances in the upper extremities.
Before you figure out how to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, you need to understand what causes this disease. Most causes can be eliminated in time, preventing complications and the progression of degenerative processes.
The following factors influence the development of pathology:
- Poor posture, prolonged exposure in one position;
- Sedentary work and willingness to rest passively;
- Injuries and traumas of the cervical spine;
- Hereditary predisposition;
- Excessive weight;
- Lack of some trace elements;
- Presence of chronic foci of infection in the body;
- Age-related dystrophic processes in spinal tissues;
- Exposure to toxins and certain drugs;
- Sleeps on an uncomfortable pillow or too soft surface;
In rare cases, cervical osteochondrosis is caused by systemic autoimmune diseases - lupus erythematosus, systemic polyarthritis. In most clinical situations, several pathogens influence the development of the disease at the same time - damage, the nature of the work, dietary errors.
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 physician should make a detailed medical history, taking into account the duration and intensity of symptoms, hereditary factors, the patient's lifestyle and nutritional status, and the presence of concomitant illness in the patient.
The following procedures are assigned:
- Radiography (including contrast);
- Blood test;
- MRI, CT and ultrasound;
- Spinal cord defect for bacteriological examination (in rare cases);
- Engine tests.
Modern imaging techniques (MRI and CT) make it possible to accurately determine the localization of degenerative processes, to detect the compression of blood vessels and nerve endings. In some cases, heart tests are prescribed.
Modern methods of therapy
How exactly to treat spinal osteochondrosis is determined by the doctor based on the diagnosis and the patient's current condition. Some people believe that osteochondrosis is a temporary disease and goes away on its own. People deliberately ignore back pain, believing it to be caused by fatigue, injury, “salt deposition”. It should be understood that degenerative processes in the spine are irreversible and the sooner treatment is started, the more effective it will be.
Using folk techniques is also not a very smart option. Most abnormal methods can only temporarily stop the symptoms of the disease without affecting the causes in any way. Only a specialist (orthopedist or vertebrologist) should prescribe therapy that is appropriate for your current condition.
The main tasks of the treatment are to stop the degenerative tissue transformations, to relieve the patient from the excruciating pain and to restore the functional state of the vertebral structures by strengthening the ligament-muscle device. The therapeutic goal is to prevent complications of the disease.
Methods for treating osteochondrosis of the neck are divided into conservative and radical groups. The majority of clinical manifestations are eliminated by conservative therapy. For each physician, physicians develop a unique treatment regimen: there is no single therapeutic protocol for osteochondrosis.
In the first stage, there is a need to relieve the symptoms of pain, inflammation (if any), improve blood circulation and nutrition. This is followed by the recovery phase. Patients need to be patient and strictly follow the recommendations of professionals: to be ready for long and varied therapies to achieve sustainable results.
Methods of treating cervical osteochondrosis in modern clinics:
- Therapeutic effects;
- Manual therapy;
- Hardware massage;
- Psychosomatic relief;
Let's examine the most relevant methods in more detail.
Medicines are used primarily in the initial stages of treatment. The purpose of the drugs is to relieve pain, inflammation, stimulate blood circulation and metabolism, and to develop a healthy tissue diet. They mainly use external drugs - ointments, gels. Tablets and injections are less commonly used.
The main groups of drugs prescribed for osteochondrosis of the neck are:
- Topical ointments containing analgesics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
- corticosteroids (given as intramuscular or epidural injections);
- Muscle relaxers - relieve muscle cramps;
- Vitamins to stimulate metabolism and improve the nutrition of cells and tissues.
Professional medication 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 effects of natural factors and hardware on the body.
Stable and pronounced therapeutic effects can be achieved with treatment methods such as:
- Balneotherapy (exposure to mineral waters);
- Mud therapy;
- paraffin and ozokerite applications;
- Kinesio tape - introduction of special adhesive years for affected areas;
- Exposure to bee and snake venom;
- Hirudotherapy (leech therapy);
- Shockwave therapy;
- Ultrasound treatment;
- Electro- and phonophoresis;
- Laser therapy;
- CMT (amplitude pulse therapy).
Physiotherapy is used to both relieve pain and rehabilitate the spine and restore patient activity.
Manual therapy and device massage
Professional massage is no less effective than physiotherapy. It is important that the manipulations be performed by a trained and competent professional, as the risk of injury to the cervical spine is very high. Massage improves blood circulation, improves nutrition, relieves fatigue, stimulates lymph flow, relieves muscle tension, relaxes ligaments and accelerates soft tissue regeneration. In addition, the psychosomatic puzzle takes place.
The simplest massage equipment - hand massagers, applicators - is allowed at home. Electric massagers have a good therapeutic effect - they can also be used for preventive purposes.
The effect on certain biologically active points in the body also produces therapeutic results in certain situations. Reflexology (acupuncture) is performed using acupuncture, moxibustion, or acupressure. A prerequisite for carrying out such procedures is the participation of a certified professional and strict adherence to health regulations.
Exercise for cervical osteochondrosis is mandatory during the recovery phase. If patients do not want to allow relapses and disease progression, they need to strengthen the ligaments and muscles and stimulate blood flow to the affected area. These results can be achieved with regular gymnastic exercises.
The exercise complex is developed by the instructor or the attending physician directly: all shades of the disease and the patient's condition must be considered. In the first stage, the load should be minimal: the tissues should not be damaged or overloaded. In the future, cervical spine gymnastics should become a habit: exercises can be performed while working, resting in front of the TV.
Nutrition is of little importance for the condition of the spine and nearby tissues. Patients with osteochondrosis should eat varied and rational diets. It is necessary to exclude from the menu "fast" carbohydrates, fast food, canned food, fatty meats. Foods with mucopolysaccharides should be present - jelly meat, jellies, jellies.
Surgical intervention for osteochondrosis is rarely used. Operations are performed when conservative treatment does not produce results or there is severe compression of the spinal cord, full of paralysis. Sometimes surgery is used to remove osteophytes - bone growths in the body of the vertebrae and plates.