Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine: symptoms and treatment

what is cervical osteochondrosis

The main causes, symptoms and prevention of cervical osteochondrosis. Bonus: preventive gymnastics.

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a degenerative-dystrophic lesion of the intervertebral discs of the cervical spine. With age and without treatment and prevention, the disease tends to progress. Osteochondrosis is one of the most common diseases of the spine.

If any pain appears in this section, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible, as progressive osteochondrosis causes serious health problems, up to vision problems, persistent migraines and can even cause death.

Osteochondrosis is not necessarily an age-related change, it often affects people at a young age.

Eight main causes of osteochondrosis

  • heredity,
  • injuries,
  • excessive physical activity,
  • age-related changes,
  • metabolic disorders,
  • sedentary work (hypodynamia),
  • poor body position during sleep,
  • stress (psychosomatic).

If one or more symptoms appear, you should see your doctor for treatment or prevention.

Causes of cervical osteochondrosis

The causes of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine can be varied. Not only age-related changes can cause illness. The disease also affects young people who prefer sedentary work.

Inactivity is the most common cause of osteochondrosis. Lack of moderate exercise leads to muscle weakness and poor circulation. Further pinching of the nerves and the appearance of an intervertebral hernia are possible.

Factors contributing to the development of cervical osteochondrosis

  1. Violation of the structure and location of the brainstem in relation to the spine and deformation of the first cervical vertebra.
  2. Acquired forms of deformities - kyphosis, lordosis, scoliosis and their combinations.
  3. People over 60 years old. At this age, natural age-related changes in the spinal discs occur. Proliferation of bone growths.
  4. Poor posture due to bending over or being in an awkward position for a long time.
  5. Injury to the cervical spine.
  6. Incorrect muscle loading.
  7. Obesity.

If the load on the muscles is not symmetrical, it can lead to strain. Such changes are caused by the habit of lifting weights with one hand, carrying a bag over one shoulder, and using a pillow that is too soft while sleeping.

Degrees of osteochondrosis

Modern science knows three main stages in the development of cervical osteochondrosis. They differ from each other in the degree of damage to the vertebrae and the methods of treatment.

Osteochondrosis of the first degree

Begins with the rupture of the capsule of the intervertebral disc and the appearance of microcracks in the fibrosus ring. This type is characterized by degenerative transformations of the cervical joints and changes in tissue structures.

First degree signs of osteochondrosis:

  • worries about joint pain in the neck and shoulder girdle, vasoconstriction occurs and blood circulation is impaired;

  • the appearance of pain in the neck with sudden rotation of the head, which indicates compression of nerve endings;
  • discomfort in the cervical region, temples, occiput and headaches of a constant nature;
  • blurred vision, the appearance of flies and veils in the eyes.

Osteochondrosis of the second degree

Characterized by a decrease in the distance between the vertebral discs. This leads to point pain with any load, it becomes difficult to turn or tilt the head.

Third degree osteochondrosis

It is noted as a chronic disorder of the musculoskeletal function of the spine. Significant changes in the structure of the spine are visible.

Lack of treatment at this point can lead to a stroke. Death is possible.

Signs of third degree osteochondrosis:

  • partial or complete paralysis of the neck and shoulder joints;
  • decreased sensitivity of the upper limbs;
  • The herniated disc
  • becomes visually noticeable;
  • death of parts of the cerebral cortex due to circulatory problems and lack of oxygen.

In the third stage of osteochondrosis, surgery is required.

Symptoms of osteochondrosis in various parts of the spine

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis:

symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
  • sharp pain in the neck, passing to the upper limbs,
  • headache,
  • the fingers may become numb,
  • arterial hypertension,
  • impaired coordination of movements,
  • feel stiff,
  • bouts of nausea are not excluded,
  • when a nerve is pinched, pain is felt when swallowing,
  • Painful sensations in the teeth are possible.

Symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis:

  • chest pain, which may radiate to the region of the heart, lungs, pass into the shoulder blades,
  • painful sensations throughout the spine,
  • rib pain,
  • shoulder pain,
  • spots in front of the eyes,
  • tinnitus.

Osteochondrosis of the lumbosacral region:

  • menstruation disorder
  • lumbar pain syndromes passing through the lower extremities
  • lumbago
  • hernia between the vertebrae
  • increased fatigue.

Women with suspected osteochondrosis are ordered for x-rays, CT and MRI, ultrasound and neuromyography. They may recommend consulting a mammologist and a gynecologist in order to rule out diseases similar in their symptoms to osteochondrosis.

Osteochondrosis in women

In women, as in men, there are three main types of osteochondrosis, namely:

  • cervical,
  • lumbar,
  • chest.

Women are more likely than men to develop osteochondrosis of the cervical and thoracic regions. This phenomenon is due to the fact that in men, by nature, the chest muscles of the neck are more developed. Thus, these services receive the best support. Hence, it is necessary to strengthen the back and neck muscles with proper exercises whenever possible.

Most often, cervical osteochondrosis occurs in women leading a sedentary lifestyle or occupying a sedentary job (office work, salesmen, drivers), and osteochondrosis of the thoracic region most often occurs in womenwomen with scoliosis since childhood.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

diagnosis and treatment of osteochondrosis

In order to make the correct diagnosis, you must make an appointment with a doctor. Other diseases can also be hidden under the symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis.

Cervical osteochondrosis does not have the ability to pass on its own and, passing into the last, third stage, can be fatal.

Timely started treatment will help to avoid serious and irreversible consequences.

Diagnosis of osteochondrosis

Here is an example of a list of medical specialists who will help you understand the problem.

  • General practitioner (general practitioner). Therapists conduct general diagnostics without treatment, prescribe general tests (urine, blood biochemistry). They take your individual complaints into account and direct you to the right specialist.
  • Neurologist. A neurologist deals with the treatment of the initial and intermediate stages of cervical osteochondrosis. At the stage of visiting a neurologist, as a rule, an X-ray of the spine is taken. With confirmed osteochondrosis, appropriate treatment is selected.
  • Trauma surgeon. Consultation of this specialist is prescribed if there are any changes in the tissues. Perhaps the appointment of MRI, spondylography, CT scan. Additional treatment is also selected.
  • Neurosurgeon. A consultation with a neurosurgeon is prescribed if an intervertebral hernia is suspected, referring to the results of the CT scan and MRI.
  • Physiotherapist. Treats the elimination of clinical manifestations of osteochondrosis.
  • Rehabilitologist. Treatment by a rehabilitation therapist involves a recovery period after surgery. During this period, special therapeutic exercises (exercise therapy) are selected.
  • Chiropractor. Prescribed to eliminate pain.
  • Rheumatologist. Advises and prescribes diagnoses for people with various forms of arthritis.
  • Oncologist. A visit to an oncologist is indicated for people with suspicious CT and MRI results. A specialist consultation makes it possible to confirm or exclude the presence of tumor diseases of the bone tissue. A biopsy may be ordered.

Modern methods of treating osteochondrosis:

  • surgical intervention (in the presence of irreversible changes,
  • osteopathy,
  • manual therapy,
  • physiotherapy,
  • massage,
  • working with psychosomatics,
  • reflexology,
  • drug treatment.

Drug treatment

The goal of drug therapy is to relieve inflammation and pain. Correctly selected drugs restore blood circulation and nutrition to healthy tissues.

In the acute stage, pharmacotherapy stabilizes the patient's condition and prepares him for the next stage of treatment. Ointments, muscle relaxants, corticosteroids and vitamin complexes are used.


Physiotherapy involves a combination of natural and material effects on the body. Effectively relieves pain and restores physical activity.

Manual therapy

Manual therapy is effective when supervised by a good specialist.

Massage stimulates blood circulation and improves tissue nutrition. Manual therapy is convenient for home use (massagers and various applicators).

Before using manual therapy products at home, you should consult a specialist.


Reflexotherapy brings about an effect due to the effect on the biologically active points of the body. It can be performed in the form of acupuncture, acupressure, sometimes moxibustion. If you choose this particular method of treatment, be sure to have a qualified specialist in front of you, as exposure to inappropriate biological points can have negative consequences.

exercise therapy

Physiotherapy exercises (LFK) for osteochondrosis are prescribed without fail at the stage of recovery. The purpose of exercise therapy is to strengthen ligaments and muscles, exercise helps restore blood circulation.

Properly selected exercises can help prevent recurrence and further damage.

Exercises for cervical osteochondrosis

In conclusion, we present to your attention some exercises of the physiotherapy exercise complex.

Consult a physician before exercising.

The exercises in the Exercise Therapy Complex can be uncomfortable, so before doing this, try to relax as much as possible and make sure the breathing is calm and measured.

Overloading the muscles during exercise is not recommended. Do whatever you can, and then, after you have rested, return to the exercises.

To achieve the effect of the final recovery, it is necessary to perform up to 300 movements on the diseased spine and 100 repetitions for the adjacent sections.

With cervical osteochondrosis, it is recommended to avoid sudden movements of the head. Exercises are performed in a standing position, back straight, feet shoulder-width apart (repeat 15 times):

  1. Tilt your head to the left, hold for 10 seconds. Put pressure on the shoulders, tighten the neck muscles and resist the pressure. Repeat the same movements to the right. Repeat the first exercise, leaning forward and backward.
  2. Turn your head to the right, trying to reach your shoulder with your chin, hold the movement for a few seconds. Repeat the exercise by turning to the left.
  3. Use your chin to draw numbers from 0 to 9 in the air.

Feedback exercises:

  1. Raise your head and hold the position for 10 seconds. Lower your head and pause for five seconds.
  2. Pull your chin up towards the ceiling and hold for 10 seconds, then gently lower your head.

Lying on the side exercises:

  1. Raise your head and keep it parallel to the ground for 10 seconds. Then, gently lowering your head, pause for a few seconds.
  2. Repeat this exercise while lying on the other side.