Cervical osteochondrosis is a chronic degenerative disease in which there is a thinning of the discs located between the vertebrae, followed by their replacement by bone tissue. As the degenerative process progresses, the surrounding structures are also involved. This causes the development of a whole complex of symptoms that completely subjugate the patient's life.
The intervertebral discs consist of a gel-like core and a dense fibrous ring surrounding it, covered on top with a layer of cartilage tissue. They perform a shock-absorbing function, preventing damage to the vertebrae when running, walking and jumping, and also contribute to the mobility and flexibility of the entire spine.
In the process of natural aging, as well as under conditions of increased load, a gradual decrease in the height of the intervertebral disc is observed. The metabolism in its core is disturbed, cracks appear in the surrounding fibrous ring. There are disc protrusions - protrusions and hernias. As the disease progresses, cartilage tissue and bones are included in it, osteophytes appear - bone growths that cause limited mobility and severe pain.
Since the pathological changes occur in close proximity to the spinal cord and its roots, this leads to their compression and inflammation, as well as the reflex development of muscle spasm. As a result, a person experiences characteristic symptoms that can be suspected of a disease.
Osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae refers to multifactorial diseases. It arises against the background of a whole complex of factors, each of which exacerbates the course of the pathology. The list of reasons includes:
- sedentary way of life;
- sedentary work;
- incorrect posture;
- chronic diseases of the musculoskeletal system (scoliosis, flat feet), contributing to the uneven distribution of the load on the spine;
- congenital pathologies of the development of the spine, as well as injuries;
- excessive, repeated loading of the spine;
- hereditary predisposition.
Symptoms and syndromes
Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis do not appear immediately and are often disguised as other diseases.
The most common signs include:
- dizziness: as a rule, with osteochondrosis, it is systemic, i. e. it seems to a person that the surrounding objects rotate before his eyes;
- pain in the back of the head, neck, collar area: its intensity depends on the degree of development of the disease; mild and episodic in the early stage, spreads over the entire head and becomes permanent; periodically the attacks become unbearable, as a result of which a person cannot even move his head;
- noise or ringing in the ears: occurs when changing position after a long period of immobility, often accompanied by vertigo;
- feeling of lack of air, inability to take a deep breath; in severe cases, severe shortness of breath develops;
- nausea and vomiting: associated with circulatory disorders in certain areas of the brain, aggravated by an attempt to turn the head;
- reduced visual acuity, flashing flies or fog in front of the eyes: indicate insufficient blood supply to the brain; occur at an advanced stage of the disease;
- fluctuations in blood pressure that are difficult to correct with medication;
- sudden fainting due to vasospasm;
- feeling of a lump in the throat, sweating, dryness, swallowing problems: they are often one of the first signs of pathology.
- shoulder pain
- numbness of the fingers
In addition to the general signs of cervical osteochondrosis, there are several syndromes characteristic of this disease.
The complex of symptoms is associated with damage to the bones and cartilages of the spine. Includes:
- impaired mobility in the cervical region;
- pain when turning the head;
- X-ray signs of damage to the vertebrae themselves and the space between them.
vertebral artery syndrome
The symptoms are caused by a narrowing or spasm of the vertebral arteries, which are partially responsible for the blood supply to the brain. It manifests itself with the following symptoms:
- noise in the ears;
- spikes in blood pressure;
- nausea and vomiting;
- visual impairment;
- reduction of working capacity;
It resembles a condition with damage to the heart muscle and includes:
- pain or burning sensation behind the sternum;
- weakness and fatigue;
- rapid pulse.
The condition is associated with damage (compression or pinching) to the nerve roots exiting the spine in the cervical region. Depending on the level of impairment, a person may experience:
- numbness or pain in the back of the head;
- numbness of the tongue;
- collarbone pain, difficulty swallowing, hiccups;
- discomfort in the shoulder area, aggravated by hand movements;
- pain in shoulder blades and forearms;
- numbness of the index and middle finger;
- numbness in ring finger and little finger.
Most often, several nerve roots are involved in the pathological process at once, as a result of which several characteristic symptoms are observed at once.
In the process of development, cervical osteochondrosis goes through four successive stages (grades), which determine the severity of the symptoms and the general condition of the patient.
- 1 stage. The thickness of the intervertebral discs is slightly reduced. Symptoms are practically absent, sometimes there is slight discomfort in the neck, for example, when staying in an uncomfortable position for a long time.
- 2 stage. The height of the disc becomes even smaller, the pathological growth of cartilage tissue begins, protrusions (bulges) appear. The pain becomes stronger, joins stiffness in the cervical region.
- 3 stage. The fibrous ring surrounding the core of the disc is torn, an intervertebral hernia is formed. The spine is significantly deformed, the risk of dislocations and subluxations of the vertebrae increases. The pain becomes constant, it is joined by other symptoms of osteochondrosis.
- 4 stage. Irreversible changes occur in the spine: bony growths appear, the intervertebral disc is replaced by a scar and loses its ability to bear the load. Symptoms become pronounced and have a significant impact on the patient's lifestyle and well-being. The quality of life is falling.
In search of the causes of pain or dizziness, the patient can turn to doctors of various specialties: therapist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, neurologist. To diagnose osteochondrosis, a comprehensive examination is required, which includes:
- radiography and computed tomography: effective only in the later stages of the development of the disease, when the changes become clearly visible;
- nuclear magnetic resonance: due to the high degree of visualization, it allows you to see even the initial changes; is currently the main diagnostic method;
- duplex scanning of the arteries of the head and neck: allows you to assess the quality of blood flow, identify vasoconstriction; used to determine the causes of headache and vertigo.
It is mandatory to conduct a study and examination of the patient, to determine the areas of pain and the degree of mobility of the spine, to assess the quality of reflexes. For differential diagnosis with other diseases with similar symptoms, the following can be prescribed:
- ECG, ultrasound of the heart;
- daily monitoring of ECG and blood pressure;
- chest x-ray;
- consultations of narrow specialists: cardiologist, ENT.
Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis requires an integrated approach and includes:
- healing effect;
- physical therapy;
- physical therapy exercises;
The main goal of drug treatment is to relieve pain and dizziness, restore the normal functioning of the nerve roots and, if possible, stop or slow down the destruction of cartilage tissue. Depending on the situation, the following are appointed:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (meloxicam, diclofenac, nimesulide, etc. ): aimed at relieving pain and inflammation; are used in the form of tablets, injections, ointments, patches;
- steroid drugs (hydrocortisone, dexamethasone): also used to relieve inflammation when NSAIDs are ineffective;
- muscle relaxants (midokalm): drugs that eliminate reflex muscle spasms, thereby reducing pain and improving blood circulation;
- vitamins of group B in the form of injections or tablets (milgamma, neuromultivit): help to improve the conduction of nerve impulses;
- sedatives for severe pain to improve sleep and reduce the emotional component of pain;
- decongestants for pinched nerve roots;
- chondroprotectors: drugs that help restore cartilage tissue.
Depending on the symptoms, drugs can also be prescribed to improve microcirculation in the cerebral vessels, drugs that block nausea and vertigo, etc.
Non-pharmacological methods of treatment are used without exacerbation. Depending on the clinical situation, the following are used:
- physical therapy:
- laser therapy;
- magnetic therapy;
- UHF therapy;
- phonophoresis and electrophoresis;
Non-drug treatment helps reduce the severity of symptoms and reduces the frequency and severity of exacerbations. Acts indirectly:
- improves blood supply to the affected area, metabolism and regeneration processes;
- enhances the effect of drugs;
- helps to strengthen the muscle frame and stabilize the spine;
- reduces the load on the spinal discs;
- removes muscle spasms and blocks.
The help of surgeons is necessary in advanced cases of the disease, when medical methods are no longer effective. Several operations are currently in use:
- surgical removal of disc herniation (microdiscectomy, endoscopic or transfacet surgery);
- laminectomy: removal of the spinous processes or the arch of the vertebrae, thereby reducing the load on the root of the spinal cord;
- nucleoplasty: repair of a hernia by removing part of the nucleus of the intervertebral disc.
It is important to remember that only a doctor can decide how to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical spine. The scheme is prepared individually, taking into account the stage of the disease, concomitant diseases and the individual characteristics of the patient's body.
Osteochondrosis causes destruction of the most important structures: blood vessels and nerves. Without treatment, the disease can lead to the following complications:
- Ischemic Stroke;
- loss of sensation or motor function of the hand;
- difficulty swallowing;
- thyroid disorder;
- loss or significant reduction in visual acuity.
In addition, damage to the intervertebral discs and joints leads to significant limitation of neck mobility.
If attention is paid to the prevention of cervical osteochondrosis, even with existing changes, their progression will be significantly slowed down. Doctors recommend:
- lead an active lifestyle, avoid hypodynamia;
- minimize or eliminate heavy lifting;
- you sleep on an orthopedic mattress and pillow;
- Do a regular warm-up if you have to work at the computer for a long time.
The ideal sport for osteochondrosis is swimming. Water relieves the spine, and active movements contribute to the formation of the muscular frame.
Treatment in the clinic
The doctors of the clinic offer their patients complex methods for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, including:
- consultations with a vertebrologist;
- modern medicinal schemes for pain relief and relief of the condition;
- drug blockade for rapid pain relief;
- effective types of physical therapy;
- Physical exercise exercises under the supervision of an experienced instructor, development of a complex for homework;
- consultations with a rehabilitator;
- massage therapy;
- chiropractor services as needed.
Pathologies of the cervical vertebrae
Disorders in the cervical spine are very often accompanied by weakness and cephalgia, since important blood vessels, the spinal arteries, pass through it. They are responsible for the proper nutrition of the brain, and therefore, when they are pressed by displaced vertebrae or other structures, the blood supply to the brain is disturbed. This leads to the development of ischemia of his tissues, which is accompanied by headache, weakness and a number of other symptoms. They include:
Very often today people of different ages, gender, social status are diagnosed with osteochondrosis, as well as its complications - protrusions and intervertebral hernias. These diseases are characterized by the appearance of degenerative-dystrophic changes in the intervertebral discs separating the vertebrae. As a result, their height decreases, which leads to convergence of the vertebrae and creates conditions for the disruption of the spinal roots that pass right there.
In the absence of treatment, the degenerative-dystrophic changes in the discs progress and, over time, a protrusion is formed - a part of the disc protrudes outward. It tends to gradually increase in size and subsequently transform into an intervertebral hernia. In such cases, the risk of nerve root compression increases dramatically.
In addition, osteochondrosis and its complications are accompanied by the formation of bone and cartilage growths - osteophytes - on the surface of the vertebral bodies. They can reach large sizes and, like a hernia, mechanically compress the spinal arteries, which will lead to weakness and headaches. At the same time, cephalgia is one of the main symptoms of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, even in the absence of damage to the spinal arteries.
Other symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis are:
- crunch in the neck when bending, turning the head;
- pain in the neck, radiating to the back of the head, arms;
- reflex spasm of the neck muscles, which increases the pain;
- mobility restrictions;
- sensitivity disorders of various parts of the upper limbs, nape, neck;
- difficulty swallowing, etc.
The disease cannot go away on its own. It is characterized by periods of exacerbation and remission, but constantly progresses and in advanced cases requires surgery to remove large hernias. Therefore, when its symptoms appear, you should immediately contact a neurologist.
When to see a doctor urgently
In some cases, when a headache appears in combination with weakness, you should immediately seek medical help, as they can indicate the development of dangerous diseases and conditions, including stroke and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain).
Warning symptoms are:
- severe headache that comes on suddenly;
- limited ability to tilt the head forward, pressing the chin to the chest, combined with general weakness;
- visual impairment, speech;
- numbness of the limbs.
Diagnosis and treatment
Thus, headache and weakness can accompany both relatively harmless conditions and serious diseases. If they appear with enviable regularity and there are other symptoms, you should consult a doctor: neurologist, cardiologist, endocrinologist. But when it is difficult to guess on your own what exactly caused a violation of general well-being and cephalalgia, it is better to initially contact a therapist. If necessary, the doctor will prescribe additional research methods and, based on their results, taking into account the clinical picture, will make a diagnosis or refer the patient to a specific specialist for treatment.
To diagnose the causes of headache and weakness are prescribed:
- KLA, OAM, biochemical blood test - allow you to detect inflammatory processes, as well as disorders in the work of individual organs, metabolism;
- ECG, echography of the heart, vessels of the neck and head - provide data on the work and condition of the blood vessels, the heart muscle;
- EEG - allows you to detect changes in the functioning of individual parts of the brain;
- X-ray, CT, MRI of the cervical spine - are indicated for the detection of pathologies of the spine and assessment of their severity.
Based on the results of the research, it is almost always possible to determine the cause of headache and weakness and therefore choose an effective treatment strategy. It is developed individually for each patient and is aimed both at improving the general condition and at eliminating the detected disease. Therefore, for the treatment of headache and weakness can be used:
- drug therapy, including individually selected drugs, in particular NSAIDs, against migraine, to improve blood supply to the brain, highly specific drugs;
- physiotherapy procedures that help increase the effectiveness of other treatment methods and consolidate the achieved results;
- manual therapy, the main goal of which is to restore the spine, the condition of which depends on the work of all organs and systems.
In any case, alarming symptoms such as headache and weakness should not be ignored, especially if they occur frequently. In such cases, you should definitely consult a doctor. This will avoid increased weakness, progression of existing pathological changes, related complications and in a short time. After all, the earlier the disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to eliminate.