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 in the cervical spine. With age and in the absence of treatment and prevention, the disease tends to progress. Osteochondrosis is one of the most common diseases of the spine.

If pain appears in this department, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible, since progressive osteochondrosis entails serious health problems, up to vision problems, persistent migraines and can even provoke 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),
  • incorrect body position during sleep,
  • stress (psychosomatics).

If one or more symptoms occur, you should consult 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 provoke 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 brain stem relative to the spine and deformity of the first cervical vertebra.
  2. Acquired forms of deformities - kyphosis, lordosis, scoliosis and their combinations.
  3. Elderly over 60 years of age. At this age, natural age-related changes in the vertebral discs occur. Overgrowth of bone growths.
  4. Poor posture due to stoop or prolonged uncomfortable posture.
  5. Injuries of the cervical spine.
  6. Incorrect muscle loading.
  7. Obesity.

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

Degrees of osteochondrosis

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

First degree osteochondrosis

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

First degree signs of osteochondrosis:

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

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

Second degree osteochondrosis

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

Osteochondrosis of the third degree

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

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

Signs of third degree osteochondrosis:

  • partial or complete paralysis of the joints of the neck and shoulders;
  • decreased sensitivity of the upper limbs;
  • herniated disc becomes visually noticeable;
  • death of certain parts of the cerebral cortex due to circulatory disorders and lack of adequate oxygen supply.

At the third stage of osteochondrosis, a surgical operation 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 into the upper limbs,
  • headaches,
  • fingers may go numb,
  • high blood pressure,
  • impaired coordination of movements,
  • feeling 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 the thoracic osteochondrosis:

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

Osteochondrosis of the lumbosacral region:

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

Women with suspected osteochondrosis are prescribed x-rays, CT and MRI, ultrasound and neuromyography. They may recommend visiting a mammologist and gynecologist in order to exclude diseases similar in their symptoms to osteochondrosis.

Osteochondrosis in women

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

  • 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 muscles of the chest of the neck are more developed. Thus, these departments have the best support. Therefore, it is necessary, if possible, to strengthen the muscles of the back and neck with suitable exercises.

Most often, cervical osteochondrosis manifests itself in women leading a sedentary lifestyle or engaged in sedentary work (office work, salespeople, drivers), and osteochondrosis of the thoracic region most often manifests itself in women who have had scoliosis since childhood.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

diagnosis and treatment of osteochondrosis

In order to make the correct diagnosis, you need to 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 by itself and, passing into the last, third stage, can be fatal.

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

Diagnosis of osteochondrosis

Here is a sample list of specialist doctors who will help you understand the problem.

  • General practitioner (general practitioner). Therapists carry out general diagnostics without treatment, prescribe general tests (urine, blood biochemistry). They take into account your individual complaints and give further referral to the right specialist.
  • Neurologist. A neurologist deals with the treatment of the initial and middle stages of cervical osteochondrosis. At the stage of visiting a neurologist, as a rule, an X-ray of the spine is performed. With confirmed osteochondrosis, appropriate treatment is selected.
  • Trauma surgeon. The consultation of this specialist is prescribed if there are changes in the tissues. Perhaps the appointment of MRI, spondylography, CT. Further treatment is also selected.
  • Neurosurgeon. Consultation of a neurosurgeon is prescribed if an intervertebral hernia is suspected, referring to the results of CT and MRI.
  • Physiotherapist. Deals with the elimination of clinical manifestations of osteochondrosis.
  • Rehabilitologist. Treatment by a rehabilitation therapist implies a recovery period after surgery. During this period, special therapeutic exercises (exercise therapy) are selected.
  • Chiropractor. Prescribed to eliminate pain.
  • Rheumatologist. Gives advice and prescribes diagnostics to persons with various forms of arthritis.
  • Oncologist. Visiting an oncologist is indicated for individuals with suspicious CT and MRI findings. A specialist consultation helps to confirm or exclude the presence of tumor diseases of the bone tissue. Biopsy may be prescribed.

Modern methods of osteochondrosis treatment:

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

Drug therapy

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

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


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

Manual therapy

Manual therapy is effective when it is 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 home manual therapy products, you need to consult a specialist.


Reflexotherapy brings an effect due to the effect on biologically active points of the body. It can be carried out in the form of acupuncture, acupressure, sometimes moxibustion. If you choose this particular method of treatment, make sure that you 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 recovery stage. The purpose of exercise therapy is to strengthen the ligaments and muscles, exercise helps to restore blood flow.

Properly selected exercises can help prevent recurrence and deepening of damage.

Exercises for cervical osteochondrosis

In conclusion, we present to your attention a few exercises from the complex of physiotherapy exercises.

Consult a doctor before exercising.

Exercises of the exercise therapy complex can be uncomfortable, so before doing it, try to relax as much as possible and make sure that breathing is calm and measured.

It is not recommended to overload muscles during exercise. Do as much as you can, then, after resting, return to the exercises.

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

With cervical osteochondrosis, it is recommended to avoid sudden head movements. 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. Presenting pressure on the shoulders, tighten the neck muscles and resist the pressure. Repeat the same movements to the right. Repeat the first exercise, bending forward and backward.
  2. Turn your head to the right, trying to reach your shoulder with your chin, hold back the movement for a few seconds. Repeat the exercise with a turn to the left.
  3. Use your chin to draw numbers from 0 to 9 in the air.

Back Exercises:

  1. Raise your head up and hold for 10 seconds. Lower your head and take a five-second break.
  2. Pull your chin towards the ceiling and hold for 10 seconds, then gently lower your head.

Side Lying Exercises:

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