Cervical osteochondrosis: causes, symptoms and treatment methods

Dizziness, pressure fluctuations, fainting, heart pain; all of this often comes from problems with the spine. 80% of the population suffers from osteochondrosis of the cervical spine of varying severity, and according to statistics, men cope with it earlier than women - at the age of 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, in which the soft tissue hardens and depreciation decreases.

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

Mechanism of damage to the cervical vertebrae

mechanism of development of cervical osteochondrosis

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

  1. Compression of the vessels that traverse 1 to 7 vertebrae causes hypoxia (lack of oxygen) of the brain.
  2. Development of problems in the work of the respiratory system, blood vessels, heart, loss of vision.
  3. Impaired blood circulation in the brain leads to neurocirculatory dystonia (vegetative-vascular).
  4. Decreased mobility of the neck: when bony formations form in the vertebrae.
  5. Dysfunction of the cerebellum, compression of the spinal cord: leads to death in the advanced stage of the disease.

Stages of cervical osteochondrosis

Pathology develops slowly. In the preclinical stage, the distance between the vertebrae decreases, they press on the soft disc. Then it becomes thinner, the fibrous ring is destroyed, its nucleus protrudes. A bulge forms, then a hernia. The vertebrae rub against each other, change shape, and growths appear on them. Nerves and blood vessels are pinched.

The initial stage of cervical osteochondrosis

Cracks appear in the annulus fibrosus, the capsule ruptures, and the nucleus pulposus is damaged. Cervical osteochondrosis makes itself felt when the head is turned, when the nerve endings are pinched, the blood vessels narrow, and the blood flow suffers. There are pains in the back of the head, the back muscles tire quickly.

2 stage of the pathology

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

The last stages of osteochondrosis of the neck

stages of development of cervical osteochondrosis

In the third stage of the pathology, a bulge of the disc develops leading to a hernia, the pulp ring bulges and protrudes. The cervical vertebrae and their axis are displaced, the nutrition of the brain suffers. Also, in the last (3 and 4) stages of the pathology, the following processes begin:

  • the intervertebral discs are destroyed, which are replaced by connective tissue;
  • mobility of the neck and shoulder joints is lost;
  • by 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 patient's condition depends on the stage of the disease. First, there are rare pains when turning or lowering the head, tension in the muscles of the back. After that, the person experiences constant fatigue. The pains get worse and are more frequent. More weakness, dizziness, ringing in the ears are added, visual acuity decreases. All signs of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine are divided into 3 groups:

  • Irritant reflex syndromes: neurodystrophic manifestations, muscular and vegetative-vascular tonic.
  • Compression-radicular- Associated with compression of nerve endings, one of the key symptoms is sharp pain when turning the head.
  • Vertebral artery syndrome: occurs when the vessel that supplies the structures of the brain narrows.

Neurotic disorders

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

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

General clinical signs

Osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae causes headaches and visual disturbances. In stage 2 of the pathology, patients complain of ringing in the ears, a lump in the throat, weakness of the arm muscles, numbness of the tongue. When turning the neck and tilting the head, a cracking sound is heard, black dots appear in front of the eyes. With vertebral artery syndrome, other symptoms appear:

  • migraine from occiput to forehead;
  • darkening before the eyes;
  • scalp pain;
  • 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 more often experience numbness of the extremities during sleep, tingling and pain in the hands. The attacks are repeated several times at night.

Causes of cervical osteochondrosis

Pathology develops under the influence of a large load on the vertebrae, which causes muscle spasms. 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;
  • Hypodynamic: lack of physical activity, little 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 neck hypothermia;
  • 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 an X-ray of the neck in 4 projections: the image shows the position of the vertebrae, the displacement. The stage of the disease and latent pathologies are revealed by the following methods:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging: the most effective method, it shows in detail degenerative changes in the bones, hernias, protrusions, ruptures of the fibrous ring. It can be prescribed in place of an X-ray, but the exam is expensive.
  • Duplex ultrasound: to evaluate blood flow disorders in the arteries.
  • Computed tomography: does not reveal the size and areas of hernias, it is prescribed in the early stages to determine the narrowing of the spinal gap, displacement of cervical segments, marginal growths of thewoven bone.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

The goals of therapy are to restore blood flow, tissue nutrition, eliminate 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, physical therapy, taking chondroprotectants and drugs that improve blood circulation.
  • Osteochondrosis stage 2-3- drug treatment, recovery gymnastics, massages.
  • Irreversible degenerative changes with destruction, deformity of the vertebrae- surgery and symptomatic pharmacotherapy.
  • Exacerbation of chronic form of cervical osteochondrosis: injections or tablets of drugs that relieve pain and spasms.

Helps with severe pain sensations

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

  • Analgesics in tablets: they have a medium efficacy, they are contraindicated in case of blood clotting problems.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Tablets are taken if there are no results of pain relievers, as this group of drugs adversely affects the stomach and liver.
  • Injections: administered in case of severe acute pain, the effect appears after 15 minutes. For intramuscular injections, NSAIDs, myotropic antispasmodics, are used. In severe cases, a blockage is performed.

Conservative therapy for osteochondrosis of the neck

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

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


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 cartilage, prevent the vertebrae from collapsing. Medications are used internally and topically. The main groups of funds are the following:

  • Muscle relaxants: relieve muscle spasms, reduce pain, use for a month.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): applied topically and internally, they relieve pain and swelling. Tablets are used no more than 10 days.
  • Analgesics: they relieve pain, but do not eliminate inflammation and have a weaker effect than NSAIDs.
  • Chondroprotectors: protect and restore cartilage tissue.
  • Sedatives: Often prescribed for women in whom osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is complicated by severe neurotic disorders.
  • Nootropics: they affect brain circulation and help fight vertigo.
  • Vitamin and mineral complexes: improve metabolism in nervous tissue.


During remission, the 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, the plan of which is drawn up by the doctor. The main treatments are:

  • Manual therapy: straighten the position of the vertebrae and fix 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 by stroking and rubbing the cervical area and neck from top to bottom for 7-10 minutes to relieve muscle spasm.
  • Drug Electrophoresis- Medications are used to relieve pain and improve blood circulation, which with the current quickly reaches the desired point.
  • Magnetotherapy: aimed at eliminating edema.
  • Acupuncture: improves blood flow and relieves inflammation. It is carried out in courses of 8-10 sessions in 1-2 days.
  • Shants collaris ​​a controversial method of eliminating the symptoms of osteochondrosis, as it takes the load off the muscles, but they do not strengthen them. The product fixes the neck and stretches the spine, increasing the distance between its segments. They wear a necklace for 3 hours a day for a month.

Exercise therapy for osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebrae

Outside periods of exacerbation, it is shown that the patient performs therapeutic exercises. The head is strongly tilted back and forth, rotation is prohibited. Each exercise is performed for no more than a minute, without sudden movements, jerks. If discomfort or pain occurs, the session is stopped. Proven exercises for the cervical spine:

  • Slowly turn your head to the right and left, staring at a point in front of you: in this way you control a small range of motion. Do it 10-15 times in each direction, gradually increasing to 30.
  • Place the palm of your hand on your forehead and apply pressure while trying to tilt your head forward. Count to 5 and relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Place the palm of the right hand on the left temple, press down to tilt the head towards the shoulder. Count to 5, release Do 10 times on each side.
  • Lying on your stomach, stretch your arms along your body. Lifting your head slightly, turn it slowly so that your ear touches the ground. Do 10 movements on each side.

Surgical treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

If the nerve roots are affected, there is a hernia with a 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: hand paralysis, muscle atrophy, stroke. The main treatment methods:

  • Facetectomy: endoscopic removal of joints followed by clamping of the vertebrae, which will remain immobile.
  • Discectomy with fusion: prescribed for severe deforming changes. During the operation, the soft disk is removed, the vertebrae are spliced ​​to stop its destruction. Cons: limited mobility of the cervical spine, prolonged rehabilitation.
  • Spinal fusion: extraction of fragments of 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 in a corset.
  • Corpectomy: removal of the destroyed vertebra and adjacent discs, performed in the absence of any effect of other methods.

Home remedies for cervical osteochondrosis

For severe pain, take 1 tsp. 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) for 3-5 minutes. This is done 1-2 times a day.

Other popular recipes besides the main therapy:

Home remedies for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis.
  1. Pour 500 g of knotty with water (2 l), bring to a boil, leave. Pour the cooled broth through cheesecloth into a prepared bath, drink for 15-20 minutes. The procedure is done at night, relaxes and calms. The course is 7 to 10 sessions.
  2. Mix 1 tbsp. l. 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 scarf on top. Hold for an hour. Procedures are carried out every day for 2 weeks.
  3. Pour 100 g of elderberries with vodka (600 ml). Insist in a cold place for a week. Rub the neck with this remedy 2 times a day for 10-15 days.


Patients over 40 should take calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, magnesium in courses once every six months; improve the condition of bones, ligaments and cartilage. The diet includes fatty fish, shrimp, mussels, nuts, legumes, spinach, cheese, milk. Other prevention measures:

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