Cervical osteochondrosis - causes, symptoms and treatment

Dizziness, pressure changes, fainting, heart pain - all of these are often caused by spinal problems. 80% of the population suffers from varying degrees of cervical spine aggravation, and according to statistics, men experience it earlier than women: 45-50 years. If you do not start treatment at an early stage, the pathology becomes irreversible.

What is osteochondrosis

The pathology is associated with dystrophic changes in the cartilage between the vertebrae, which softens the soft tissue and reduces amortization.

Osteochondrosis affects the chest and lumbar region, but is more cervical than others. The reason is high loads on 1-7 vertebrae, weak muscles, poor nutrition and choosing the wrong pillow for sleeping.

Mechanism of cervical vertebral injury

mechanism of development of cervical osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis develops when the process of nourishment of cartilage tissue, mineral metabolism is disturbed. The strength of bones and joints decreases, ligaments lose their elasticity. The shape and structure of the disk changes; collapses under the influence of loads. The vertebrae come together, the surfaces are removed. Pathology causes such complications:

  1. Compression of blood vessels passing through 1-7 vertebrae causes hypoxia (oxygen starvation) of the brain.
  2. Development of problems with the respiratory system, blood vessels, heart, vision loss.
  3. Circulatory disorders in the brain cause neurocirculatory (vegetative-vascular) dystonia.
  4. Decreased neck mobility - bone formation in the vertebrae.
  5. Cerebellum dysfunction, spinal cord compression - causes death in the early stages of the disease.

Stages of cervical osteochondrosis

The pathology develops slowly. In the preclinical stage, the distance between the vertebrae decreases, pressing on the soft disc. Then it becomes thinner, the fibrous ring is destroyed, the nucleus comes out. A bulge occurs, then a hernia. The vertebrae rub against each other, change shape and grow on them. Nerves and blood vessels constrict.

Early stage of cervical osteochondrosis

Cracks form in the ring, the capsule is torn and the pulposus nucleus is damaged. Cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by dizziness, constriction of nerve endings, narrowing of blood vessels, and impaired blood flow. There is pain in the back of the head, the back muscles get tired quickly.

2 stages of pathology

Degenerative process develops in the discs, the capsule ring is completely destroyed. The height between the vertebrae decreases, they become unstable, and the spinal cord compresses the nerve roots. Flexibility and mobility of the neck decreases. At this stage, the disease can still be treated without surgery.

The final stages of cervical osteochondrosis

stages of development of cervical osteochondrosis

In stage 3 of the pathology, a disc protrusion develops, which leads to a hernia, the pulp ring swells and protrudes. The cervical vertebrae and their axes move, the brain suffers from malnutrition. In addition, in the last (3 and 4) stages of the pathology, the following processes begin:

  • intervertebral discs replaced by connective tissue are destroyed;
  • loss of mobility of the neck and shoulder joints;
  • friction on the surface of the vertebrae causes growths, nerve fibers are damaged;
  • Due to problems with the innervation of
  • , the sensitivity of the hands decreases.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis

The patient's condition depends on the stage of the disease. First, there are rare pains when turning the head or lowering, tension in the back muscles. After that, the person experiences constant fatigue. The pain intensifies and becomes more frequent. Additional weakness, dizziness, tinnitus, visual acuity are added. All symptoms of cervical spine osteochondrosis are divided into 3 groups:

  • Irritant-reflex syndromes- neurodynstrophic, muscular-tonic and vegetative-vascular manifestations.
  • Radical compression- is associated with compression of the nerve endings, one of the main symptoms is severe pain when turning the head.
  • Vertebral artery syndrome- occurs when the blood vessels that supply the structures of the brain constrict.

Neurotic disorders

The brain is poorly supplied with blood, its function and nervous system are impaired. Often there are headaches, insomnia, which leads to fatigue and apathy. Then the following symptoms appear:

signs and symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
  • increased sweating;
  • emotional lability (mood instability);
  • increased irritability;
  • dizziness;
  • depression;
  • weak concentration;
  • tinnitus;
  • "flies" in front of the eyes;
  • anxiety;
  • vibrations of the limbs (vibrations);
  • panic attacks;
  • Disorders of the vestibular apparatus: nausea, vomiting, gait instability, spatial disturbances, loss of coordination.

General clinical signs

Osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae causes headaches and visual disturbances. In the second stage of the pathology, patients complain of noise in the ears, a lump in the throat, weakness of the arm muscles, numbness of the tongue. When he turns his head and tilts his head, a crisis is heard, black dots appear in front of his eyes. Other symptoms occur with vertebral artery syndrome:

  • migraine from occiput to forehead;
  • darkening of the eyes;
  • scalp pain;
  • hearing loss;
  • high blood pressure;
  • creaking fingers.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis in women

The clinical picture does not depend on gender, but women between the ages of 45 and 65 are more likely to experience numbness of the extremities during sleep, bloating, and pain in the hands. The attacks are repeated several times a night.

Causes of cervical osteochondrosis

Pathology develops under the influence of a high load on the spine, which causes muscle spasms. Sedentary work often leads to this - on the computer, in the vehicle.

People with postural disorders are at risk. Other causes of cervical osteochondrosis:

  • nervous tension, often stressful situations;
  • hypodynamics - low physical activity, low activity;
  • weakness of neck muscles;
  • hereditary tendency;
  • spinal injuries;
  • rheumatism;
  • excessive physical activity, weight lifting;
  • unhealthy diet;
  • metabolic diseases;
  • causes of cervical osteochondrosis
  • Frequent hypothermia of the neck;
  • age-related changes in the musculoskeletal system, cartilage tissue;
  • congenital defects of the cervical spine;
  • autoimmune pathologies affecting cartilage tissue;
  • overweight;
  • instability of the vertebrae.


The doctor examines the patient's complaints, assesses posture and muscle tension. The diagnosis is clarified using cervical radiography in 4 projections: the picture shows the position and displacement of the vertebrae. The stage of the disease and hidden pathologies are revealed in the following ways:

  • Magnetic resonance imagingis ​​the most effective method, showing in detail degenerative changes in bones, hernias, protrusions, fractures of the annulus fibrosis. It is possible to write instead of X-rays, but the examination is expensive.
  • Ultrasound duplex scanning- to assess vascular blood flow disorders.
  • Computed tomography- does not detect the size and zones of hernias, is prescribed in the early stages to determine the narrowing of the spinal cord, displacement of cervical spine segments, peripheral growth of bone tissue.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

The goal of therapy is to restore blood flow, tissue nutrition, relieve the symptoms of hypoxia, and stop the destruction of the spine and discs. It is important to strengthen the muscle corset that supports the neck and restores joint mobility. Treatment tactics are selected according to the stage of the disease:

  • Primary- massage, gymnastics, physiotherapy, taking chondroprotectors and drugs that improve blood circulation.
  • Osteochondrosis stage 2-3- drug treatment, therapeutic gymnastics, massage.
  • Destruction, irreversible degenerative changes with spinal deformity- surgery and symptomatic drug treatment.
  • Exacerbation of chronic forms of cervical osteochondrosis- injections or tablets of drugs that relieve pain, spasms.

Help with severe pain

Apply a pepper spray or warming ointment locally. Active warming of a separate area distracts from the pain, increases blood flow to the tissues. The ointment is applied in a very thin layer using an applicator. Other ways to relieve pain in osteochondrosis:

  • Analgesics in tablets- have a moderate effect, are contraindicated in case of problems with blood clotting.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs- this group of drugs has a negative effect on the stomach and liver, so if the analgesics do not work, pills are taken.
  • Injections- the effect of severe pain manifests itself after 15 minutes. NSAIDs, myotropic antispasmodics are used for intramuscular injection. In severe cases, a blockade is performed.

Conservative therapy for osteochondrosis of the neck

In stages 1-2 of the disease without symptoms of cerebral hypoxia, treatment is carried out at home. The basis of therapy is gymnastics and massage. Improves blood flow, strengthens muscles. Other methods:

  • Medications- oral medications and injections for inflammation, ointments and creams for the rest of the time.
  • Physiotherapy- courses of 7-10 procedures in remission.
  • Folk remedies- as an additional method for the treatment of osteochondrosis.
  • Diet therapy- foods rich in fatty acids, magnesium, calcium are included in the diet. Exclude salt, smoked meats, salty and spicy foods, fast food.


Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis during exacerbation aims to relieve unpleasant symptoms, stimulate blood flow and nourish the tissues.

During remission, drugs that improve the quality of cartilage and prevent the collapse of the vertebrae are used. The drugs are used internally and locally. The main stock groups are:

  • Muscle relaxant- relieves muscle spasms, reduces pain, is applied for a month.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)- applied topically and internally, reduce pain, swelling. The tablets should not be used for more than 10 days.
  • Analgesics- relieve pain, but do not eliminate inflammation and are less effective than NSAIDs.
  • Chondroprotectors- protects and restores cartilage tissue.
  • Sedatives- often prescribed for women with cervical spine osteochondrosis mixed with severe neurotic disorders.
  • Nootropics- affects the blood circulation in the brain, helps to combat dizziness.
  • Vitamin and mineral complexes- improves metabolism in nerve tissue.


Treatment of osteochondrosis of the neck in remission is based on local procedures that improve blood flow, metabolism, relieve pain and inflammation. The patient does gymnastics, the plan of which is drawn up by the doctor every day. The main treatments are:

  • Manual therapy- correcting the position of the vertebrae and massaging. The course of 5-10 sessions occurs 2-4 times a year. At home, it is allowed to gently massage the cervical area and collar from top to bottom for 7-10 minutes to relieve muscle spasms.
  • Electrophoresis with drugs- drugs are used to reduce pain and improve blood circulation, which reaches any point with the current.
  • Magnetotherapy- aimed at eliminating edema.
  • Acupuncture- improves blood flow, eliminates inflammation. Conducted in courses of 8-10 sessions in 1-2 days.
  • Shants collaris ​​a controversial method of relieving the symptoms of osteochondrosis because the load is removed from the muscles but not strengthened. The product straightens the neck and lengthens the spine, increasing the distance between the segments. They wear collars for 3 hours a day for a month.

Exercise therapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

The patient is shown to perform therapeutic exercises outside of periods of exacerbation. Strong head bends back and forth, rotation is prohibited. Each workout should not exceed one minute, without sudden movements. If discomfort or pain occurs, the session is stopped. Proven Cervical Spine Exercises:

  • Slowly turn your head left and right, constantly looking at a point in front of you: this way you control a small amplitude of movement. Do 10-15 times in each direction, gradually bring to 30.
  • Place your palm on your forehead and apply pressure as you try to tilt your head forward. Count to 5 and relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Place your right palm on top of your left temple, press down to tilt your head toward your shoulder. Count to 5, release 10 times on each side.
  • Lie on your stomach and stretch your arms across your body. Raise your head slightly, turn slowly so that your ears touch the ground. Do 10 moves on each side.

Surgical treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

If the nerve roots are affected, there is a hernia with rupture of the ring, the spine is destroyed and there is no result from the main therapy, surgery is performed.

Symptoms of severe condition: hand paralysis, muscle atrophy, stroke. Basic treatments:

  • Facetectomy- endoscopic removal of joints and subsequent fixation of immobile vertebrae.
  • Fusion discectomy- is prescribed for severe deformity changes. During the operation, the soft disc is removed and the vertebrae are joined to stop the destruction. Cons: limited mobility of the cervical spine, prolonged rehabilitation.
  • Spinal fusion- removal of destroyed disc fragments, bone processes, application of artificial grafts and fixation of vertebrae with screws. The recovery period is one year, the patient is shown wearing a corset.
  • Corpectomy- removal of the destroyed spine and adjacent discs is performed without any effect of other methods.

Folk remedies for cervical osteochondrosis

Take 1 teaspoon for severe pain. alcohol and camphor, add 2 drops of iodine and rub the left and right parts of the spine (do not touch the column itself) for 3-5 minutes. This is done 1-2 times a day.

In addition to the main therapy, other folk recipes:

folk remedies for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis
  1. Pour 500 g of rice with water (2 l), boil and release. Pour the cooled broth into a gauze bath and leave for 15-20 minutes. The procedure is performed at night, relaxes and soothes. The course consists of 7-10 sessions.
  2. Mix 1 tablespoon. l. maple shoots, St. John's wort, mint leaves. Grind, pour a glass of water, boil for 5 minutes. Strain, mix with butter and vegetable oil (75 g each). Apply a thin layer of the ointment on your neck, put plastic and a scarf on top. Hold for an hour. Procedures are performed every day for 2 weeks.
  3. Pour 100 grams of blueberries with vodka (600 ml). Insist in a cool place for a week. Rub this neck twice a day for 10-15 days.


Patients over the age of 40 should take calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, magnesium once every six months - they improve the condition of bones, ligaments and cartilage. The diet includes oily fish, shrimp, mussels, nuts, legumes, spinach, cheese, milk. Other preventive measures:

  • When working without moving, change the position of the neck more often, stretch every hour;
  • Choose a comfortable pillow;
  • swimming, yoga;
  • weightlifting, jumping, running;
  • Avoid neck hypothermia.