Cervical osteochondrosis - causes, symptoms and treatment methods

Dizziness, pressure fluctuations, fainting, heart pain - all of these usually come from back problems. 80% of the population suffers from cervical spine osteochondrosis of varying severity and, according to statistics, men face it earlier than women: at 45-50 years of age. If you do not start treatment early, the pathology becomes irreversible.

What is osteochondrosis

The pathology is associated with dystrophic changes in the cartilage between the vertebrae, in which the soft tissue becomes rigid and the depreciation decreases.

Osteochondrosis affects the thoracic, lumbar region, but more often than others - the cervical region. The reason is a high load on 1-7 vertebrae, weak muscles, poor nutrition and choosing the wrong pillow to sleep on.

Mechanism of injury to the cervical vertebrae

mechanism of development of cervical osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis develops when the process of nutrition of cartilage tissue, mineral metabolism is disturbed. The strength of bones and joints decreases, ligaments lose their elasticity. The shape and structure of the disc changes; under the influence of the charges, it collapses. The vertebrae come together, their surfaces are erased. Pathology causes these complications:

  1. The compression of the vessels that pass through 1-7 vertebrae causes hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in the brain.
  2. Development of problems in the functioning of the respiratory system, blood vessels, heart, loss of vision.
  3. Violation of blood circulation in the brain leads to neurocirculatory (vegetative-vascular) dystonia.
  4. Decreased neck mobility - when bone formations form in the vertebrae.
  5. Cerebellar dysfunction, spinal cord compression - leads to death in the advanced stage of the disease.

Stages of cervical osteochondrosis

The pathology develops slowly. In the pre-clinical phase, the distance between the vertebrae decreases, they press on the soft disk. Then it becomes thinner, the fibrous ring is destroyed, its nucleus protrudes. A protrusion is formed and then a hernia. The vertebrae rub against each other, change shape and grow on them. The nerves and blood vessels are compressed.

The early stage of cervical osteochondrosis

Cracks appear in the ring, the capsule breaks and the pulposus nucleus is damaged. Cervical osteochondrosis is felt when the head is turned, when nerve endings are compressed, blood vessels are narrowed and blood flow is impaired. There is pain in the back of the neck, the muscles of the back get tired quickly.

2 stages of pathology

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

The last stages of neck osteochondrosis

developmental stages of cervical osteochondrosis

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

  • intervertebral discs are destroyed, which are replaced by connective tissue;
  • the mobility of the neck and shoulder joints is lost;
  • from friction on the surface of the vertebrae, growths are formed, nerve fibers are injured;
  • the sensitivity of the hands decreases due to problems with their innervation.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis

The condition of the patient depends on the stage of the disease. First, there are rare pains when turning or lowering the head, tension in the back muscles. After that, the person experiences constant tiredness. The pains get worse and are more frequent. More weakness, dizziness, ringing in the ears are added, visual acuity drops. All signs of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine are divided into 3 groups:

  • Reflex-irritative syndromes- neurodistrophic manifestations, muscle and vascular vegetative tonic.
  • Root compression- associated with the compression of nerve endings, one of the main symptoms is acute pain when turning the head.
  • Vertebral artery syndrome- occurs when the vessel that feeds brain structures is narrowed.

Neurotic disorders

The brain is poorly supplied with blood, its functioning and the state of the nervous system are impaired. Often the head hurts, insomnia torments, which causes a state of fatigue, apathy. Then, the following symptoms appear:

signs and symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
  • increased sweating;
  • emotional lability (mood instability);
  • increased irritability;
  • dizziness;
  • depression
  • ;
  • impaired concentration
  • ;
  • tinnitus;
  • "flies" before the eyes;
  • anxiety
  • ;
  • tremors (tremors) of the limbs;
  • panic attacks;
  • vestibular disorders: nausea, vomiting, walking instability, disorientation in space, impaired coordination.

General clinical signs

Osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae causes headaches, visual disturbances. In stage 2 of the pathology, patients complain of ringing in the ears, lump in the throat, weakness of the arm muscles, numbness of the tongue. When you turn your neck and tilt your head, you hear a crack, black dots appear in front of your eyes. With vertebral artery syndrome, other symptoms appear:

  • migraine from occiput to forehead;
  • darkening before the eyes;
  • pain in the scalp;
  • hearing loss;
  • increased blood pressure;
  • tingling in the fingers.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis in women

The clinical picture does not depend on sex, but women aged 45-65 years experience more numbness in the limbs during sleep, tingling and pain in the hands. The attacks are repeated several times at night.

Causes of cervical osteochondrosis

The pathology develops under the influence of a large load on the vertebrae, which causes muscle spasm. Sedentary work often leads to this - on a computer, in a vehicle.

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

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


The doctor examines the patient's complaints, evaluates posture, muscle tension. The diagnosis is clarified by means of a radiograph of the neck in 4 projections: the image shows the position of the vertebrae, displacement. The stage of the disease and latent pathologies are revealed by these methods:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging- the most effective method, shows in detail degenerative changes in the bones, hernias, protrusions, ruptures of the fibrous ring. It may be prescribed instead of radiography, but the exam is expensive.
  • Duplex ultrasound scan- to assess disorders of blood flow in the arteries.
  • Computed tomography- does not reveal the size and area of ​​the hernias, it is prescribed in the early stages to determine the narrowing of the spinal cleft, displacement of the segments of the cervical spine, marginal growths of bone tissue.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

The goals of therapy are to restore blood flow, tissue nutrition, remove symptoms of hypoxia and stop the destruction of vertebrae and discs. It is important to strengthen the muscular corset that supports the neck and restore mobility to the joints. Treatment tactics are chosen according to the stage of the disease:

  • Initial- massage, gymnastics, physiotherapy, ingestion of chondroprotectors and medications that improve blood circulation.
  • Osteochondrosis stage 2-3- drug treatment, corrective gymnastics, massage.
  • Irreversible degenerative changes with destruction, deformity of the vertebrae- symptomatic surgery and drug therapy.
  • Exacerbation of the chronic form of cervical osteochondrosis- injections or pills of drugs that relieve pain, spasms.

Helps with strong pain sensations

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

  • Painkillers in tablets- have medium effectiveness, are contraindicated in case of blood clotting problems.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs- the tablets are taken if there are no painkillers, as this group of drugs adversely affects the stomach and liver.
  • Injections- given in case of severe acute pain, the effect appears after 15 minutes. For intramuscular injections, NSAIDs, myotropic antispasmodics are used. In severe cases, a block is made.

Conservative therapy for osteochondrosis of the neck

In 1-2 stages of the disease, without symptoms of cerebral hypoxia, treatment is performed at home. The basis of therapy is gymnastics and massage. They improve blood flow, strengthen muscles. Other methods:

  • Medication- oral medication and injections for exacerbations, ointments and creams the rest of the time.
  • Physiotherapy- courses of 7 to 10 procedures during remission.
  • Folk remedies- as an additional method of treating osteochondrosis.
  • Dietotherapy- foods rich in fatty acids, magnesium and calcium are introduced into the diet. Exclude salt, smoked meats, pickled and spicy foods, fast food.


The treatment of cervical osteochondrosis during an exacerbation aims to relieve unpleasant symptoms, stimulate blood flow and nourish tissues.

During the remission period, drugs are used that improve the quality of the cartilage and prevent the collapse of the vertebrae. The drugs are used internally and topically. The main groups of funds are as follows:

  • Muscle relaxants- relieve muscle spasm, relieve pain, are applied within a month.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)- applied topically and internally, relieve pain, swelling. The pills are not used for more than 10 days.
  • Painkillers- they relieve pain, but do not remove inflammation and have a weaker effect than NSAIDs.
  • Chondroprotectors- protect and restore cartilage tissue.
  • Sedatives- are often prescribed for women in whom cervical spine osteochondrosis is complicated by severe neurotic disorders.
  • Nootropics- affect brain circulation, help fight vertigo.
  • Vitamin and mineral complexes- improve metabolism in nerve tissue.


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

  • Manual therapy- straightening the position of the vertebrae and fixing them with massage. A course of 5 to 10 sessions takes place 2 to 4 times a year. At home, a light massage is allowed with movements and friction in the cervical area and in the collar from top to bottom for 7 to 10 minutes to relieve muscle spasm.
  • Electrophoresis with drugs- drugs are used to relieve pain and improve blood circulation, which with the current quickly reaches the desired point.
  • Magnetoterapia- designed to remove edema.
  • Acupuncture- improves blood flow, relieves inflammation. It is carried out in courses of 8 to 10 sessions in 1 to 2 days.
  • Stem collaris ​​a controversial method of eliminating the symptoms of osteochondrosis, since the load is removed from the muscles, but they are not strengthened. The product fixes the neck and elongates the spine, increasing the distance between its segments. They wear a collar for 3 hours a day for a month.

Exercise therapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae

Outside the periods of exacerbation, the patient is shown to perform therapeutic exercises. The strong head tilts back and forth, rotation is prohibited. Each exercise is done for no more than a minute, without sudden movements, spasms. If discomfort or pain occurs, the session is interrupted. Proven exercises for the cervical spine:

  • Slowly turn your head to the right and to the left, looking steadily at a point in front of you: thus, you control a small range of motion. Do 10-15 times in each direction, gradually increase to 30.
  • Place your palm on your forehead and apply pressure while trying to tilt your head forward. Count to 5 and relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Place your right palm on your left temple, press down to tilt your head towards your shoulder. Count to 5, let goDo 10 times on each side.
  • Lying on your stomach, stretch your arms across your body. Lifting your head slightly, rotate it slowly so that your ear touches the floor. Make 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 vertebrae are destroyed and there is no result of the main therapy, an operation is performed.

Symptoms of a serious condition: paralysis of the hands, muscular atrophy, stroke. The main methods of treatment:

  • Facetectomy- endoscopic removal of the joints followed by fixation of the vertebrae, which will remain immobile.
  • Disectomy with fusion- is prescribed for severe deforming changes. During the operation, the soft disk is removed, the vertebrae are amended to prevent its destruction. Cons: limited mobility of the cervical spine, long rehabilitation.
  • Spinal fusion- removal of fragments from a destroyed disc, bone processes, introduction of an artificial graft and fixation of the vertebrae with screws. The recovery period is one year, the patient is shown wearing a corset.
  • Corpectomy- removal of the destroyed vertebra and adjacent discs, performed in the absence of any effect from other methods.

Folk remedies for cervical osteochondrosis

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

Other popular recipes besides the main therapy:

folk remedies for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis
  1. Pour 500 g of knotweed with water (2 l), boil, leave. Pour the broth cooled by a cotton cloth in a prepared bath, take for 15-20 minutes. The procedure is performed at night, relaxes and soothes. The course is 7 to 10 sessions.
  2. Mix 1 tbsp. I. birch buds, 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 the ointment in a thin layer on the neck, cover with plastic and a handkerchief on top. Wait an hour. The procedures are performed every day for 2 weeks.
  3. Pour 100 g of elderberries with vodka (600 ml). Insist on a cold spot for a week. Rub the neck with this remedy 2 times a day for 10-15 days.


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

  • during sedentary work, change the neck position more often, stretch it every hour;
  • choose a comfortable pillow;
  • swimming, yoga;
  • avoid weightlifting, jumping sports, running;
  • Avoid hypothermia in the neck.