Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

neck pain with osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis is a complex of dystrophic and degenerative disorders in the cartilaginous tissue of the vertebral discs. The disease can develop in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine. Osteochondrosis is accompanied by painful sensations and disorders of the vascular and nervous systems.

This type of the disease is the most common and occurs even in young people. Cervical osteochondrosis is the most dangerous, as it is accompanied by infringement of the nerve root extending from the spinal cord and impaired intracranial circulation as a result of the pressure of the deformed intervertebral discs on the blood vessels.

The vertebral artery, the largest blood vessel that feeds the brain, passes through the holes in the cervical vertebrae. Pressure on this artery can lead to dangerous complications such as coronary artery disease and even stroke.

The tight fit of the cervical vertebrae to each other leads to the fact that the slightest displacement of them leads to compression of the nerves and blood vessels. This leads to a decrease in skin sensitivity, partial loss of hearing and vision, and other nervous disorders.

The reasons

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is caused by internal (endogenous) causes and external (exogenous).

Internal reasons include:

  • Genetic (hereditary) factors;
  • Violations of the intrauterine development of the cartilage and bone tissue of the spine;
  • Age factors affecting changes in cartilage tissue;
  • Metabolic disorders.

External causes are more varied:

  • Excessive pressure on the vertebrae due to improper loading;
  • Various injuries and injuries to the spine and back (bruises, falls, sprains, fractures);
  • Infectious diseases;
  • Dystrophy of the back muscles;
  • Poor posture in the form of stoop and S-shaped curvature of the spine;
  • Working in an uncomfortable position;
  • Dragging and dropping heavy objects;
  • Flat feet;
  • Excess weight;
  • Intoxication;
  • Hypothermia;
  • Uncomfortable sleeping pillows;
  • Unfavorable environmental conditions;
  • Lack of vitamins or trace elements (calcium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, vitamin D);
  • Physical inactivity (lack of physical activity).

Cervical osteochondrosis is more likely to develop in people who lead a sedentary and sedentary lifestyle and are engaged in mental activity, but sometimes it also occurs in athletes, loaders or people whose work is associated with frequent bends and sudden movements.


The manifestations of cervical osteochondrosis are quite diverse. These include:

neck pain with osteochondrosis
  • Pain in the neck, extending to the back of the head, eye and ear regions, shoulder girdle;
  • Pain in the upper extremities, aggravated by the slightest exertion;
  • Muscle tension and limited mobility of the neck, especially in the morning;
  • Pain when bending and turning the head;
  • Feeling of numbness in the cervical spine after sleep;
  • Difficulty moving the arms, decreased range of motion;
  • Burning, numbness, and tingling in the upper limbs;
  • Headaches, localized mainly in the back of the head, but can also spread to the temples and parietal part;
  • Tinnitus;
  • Deterioration of vision and hearing (periodic and permanent);
  • Numbness of the tongue;
  • Pain in the chest or between the shoulder blades, which are not eliminated by nitroglycerin and depend on the position of the body;
  • Overgrowth of connective tissue in the cervical region;
  • Constant fatigue and fatigue;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Nausea;
  • Diplopia (double vision);
  • Crunching in the vertebrae.

The course of the disease and possible complications

Even a small load on the upper section can lead to the development of cervical osteochondrosis - this area of the spine is very vulnerable. Degenerative changes leading to the formation of osteophytes (growths on the bone tissue) contribute to irritation and tension of nearby muscles, which in response to the effect exert even more pressure on the cartilage and joints. This leads to the progression of the disease - compression of the arteries and nerves.

If the disease is not treated, protrusions and hernias develop in the intervertebral discs, which leads to a significant decrease in the mobility of the spine and may require surgical intervention.

With serious degenerative changes in the cartilage tissue and the absence of treatment, the so-called "radicular syndrome" - damage to the cervical nerves, can develop. This leads to an increase and progression of all of the above symptoms and can also cause impaired speech, breathing, and even such a rare phenomenon as constant hiccups.

The inflamed root can gradually occupy the entire area of the spinal canal, which causes an increase in pain syndromes and serious disorders in the nervous regulation of the limbs and facial muscles. Violation of cerebral circulation can cause weakening of intellectual abilities, memory, attention and lead to stroke.

Osteochondrosis proceeds with periods of exacerbations, when all the symptoms appear especially sharply, and periods of remission. The duration of remission depends on the patient's lifestyle and the preventive measures that he takes.


cervical osteochondrosis on x-ray

The diagnosis is established on the basis of characteristic symptoms, as well as with the help of:

  • Radiography. The method is ineffective, especially in the last stages of the development of osteochondrosis.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the cervical spine. A method that allows you to see bone structures, herniated intervertebral discs, their size and direction of development.
  • Computed tomography. Less effective solution than MRI, as the presence and size of hernias is difficult to determine.
  • Doppler ultrasound (to identify pathologies of the cervical vessels). This method is used in cases where a disturbance in blood flow is suspected in the arteries. With the help of a scan, you can determine the speed of blood flow and whether there are obstacles to it.


It is more expedient to treat osteochondrosis at the very initial stages of pathology, however, in practice, doctors are consulted when the disease develops to more dangerous stages. Self-medication for osteochondrosis is unacceptable and can cause a deterioration in the general condition.

The therapeutic effect in the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis brings positive results with an integrated approach - a combination of medicinal methods and physiotherapy.

Drug treatment

Medicines well stop (eliminate) pain symptoms, but do not affect the cause of the pathology, therefore, it is unreasonable to treat only with medication.

Medicines from the NSAID group relieve pain and inflammation well - the most suitable remedy is prescribed by the attending physician.

Medicines are also used to improve cerebral circulation and drugs that affect the relaxation of the cervical muscles. Vitamins in therapeutic dosages (especially of group B and nicotinic acid) and trace elements (preparations of calcium, phosphorus and magnesium) help.

Treatment with chondroprotectors (dietary supplements) is practiced, which restore intervertebral tissues, but some doctors consider these drugs ineffective or even useless for the treatment of osteochondrosis.

Some therapeutic effect is provided by ointments and gels for external use.

Physiotherapy and alternative treatments

In specialized clinics dealing with the problems of orthopedics and the treatment of diseases of the musculoskeletal system, preference is given to physiotherapy rather than drug methods. Based on a detailed study of the medical history (anamnesis) and an extended diagnosis, doctors draw up special individual therapy programs, which include:

massage for cervical osteochondrosis
  • Electrophoresis (introduction of medicinal substances through the skin using electrodes);
  • Magnetotherapy (exposure to magnetic fields);
  • Amplipulse therapy (treatment with modulated currents);
  • Reflexology;
  • Orthopedic gymnastics;
  • Lesson on special simulators;
  • Massage;
  • Manual methods;
  • Ultrasound therapy;
  • Laser therapy.

Treatment of osteochondrosis with the help of unconventional methods is popular - acupuncture, hirudotherapy (treatment with leeches), osteopathy.

In advanced cases and in the presence of complications, doctors resort to surgical intervention.


Since the most common cause of cervical osteochondrosis is lack of movement and incorrect body position, the best preventive measure would be therapeutic exercises, which can be performed at the workplace - in a sitting or standing position.

For the prevention of the disease, it is also necessary to visit an orthopedist from an early age and carry out timely correction of posture disorders.

Prevents osteochondrosis and proper nutrition, which provides the body with the necessary microelements. In this case, overeating should not be allowed, since excess weight is one of the reasons for the occurrence of excessive load on the vertebral discs.

When carrying heavy weights, care should be taken to properly distribute the load.

A place to sleep, a mattress and a pillow play an important role - they should be comfortable and not create tension in the back and neck muscles.

And most importantly, avoid stress, nervous tension and negative emotions.


With timely started and qualified treatment, the prognosis is favorable, but much depends on the stage of the disease, the severity of the manifestations, the patient's age and the implementation of medical recommendations regarding lifestyle, proper nutrition and the elimination of bad habits.