Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine: symptoms and treatment

what is cervical osteochondrosis

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 occurs in this section, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible, as progressive osteochondrosis leads to serious deterioration of health, all the way 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 changes,
  • metabolic disorders,
  • sedentary work (hypodynamics),
  • Improper 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 different. Not only can age-related changes cause the disease. The disease also affects young people who prefer a sedentary job.

Inactivity is the most common cause of osteochondrosis. Lack of moderate exercise leads to muscle weakness and poor circulation. Further nerve contraction and intervertebral hernia may occur.

Factors contributing to the development of cervical osteochondrosis

  1. Violation of the structure and position of the brainstem in relation to the spine and deformation of the first cervical spine.
  2. Acquired forms of deformities - kyphosis, lordosis, scoliosis and their combinations.
  3. Older people over 60. At this age, natural age-related changes occur in the spinal discs. Excessive growth of bone growths.
  4. Poor posture due to tilting or prolonged uncomfortable posture.
  5. Injuries to the cervical spine.
  6. Improper muscle load.
  7. Obesity.

If the muscle load 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 soft pillow while sleeping.

Degree of osteochondrosis

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

First degree osteochondrosis

It begins with the rupture of the capsule of the intervertebral disc and the appearance of microcracks in the annular fibrosus. This type is characterized by degenerative transformations in the cervical joints and changes in tissue structure.

Signs of first degree osteochondrosis:

  • worried about pain in the joints in the neck and shoulder girdle, vasoconstriction and impaired blood circulation;

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

Second degree osteochondrosis

It is characterized by a decrease in the distance between the spinal discs. It entails punctate pain under any load, it becomes difficult to turn or tilt the head.

Third degree osteochondrosis

It is mentioned 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 neck and shoulder joints;
  • decreased sensitivity of the upper limbs;
  • disc herniation becomes visually noticeable;
  • death of certain parts of the cerebral cortex due to circulatory disorders and lack of adequate oxygen supply.

In the third stage of osteochondrosis, surgery is required.

Symptoms of osteochondrosis in different parts of the spine

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis:

symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis
  • sharp pain in the neck, which passes to the upper limbs,
  • headaches,
  • fingers may numb,
  • high blood pressure,
  • impaired coordination of movements,
  • I feel stiff,
  • nausea attacks are not excluded,
  • when the nerve is compressed, you feel pain when swallowing,
  • Painful sensations in the teeth are possible.

Symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis:

  • chest pain, which can radiate to the heart, lungs, pass to the shoulder blades,
  • pain in the whole spine,
  • rib pain,
  • shoulder pain,
  • stains before the eyes,
  • tinnitus.

Osteochondrosis of the lumbosacral region:

  • menstrual disorder
  • lower extremity lumbar pain syndromes
  • lumbago
  • hernia between the vertebrae
  • increased fatigue.

Women with suspected osteochondrosis are prescribed X-rays, CT and MRI, ultrasound and neuromyography. They may recommend a visit to a mammologist and gynecologist to rule out diseases similar to their osteochondrosis symptoms.

Osteochondrosis in women

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

  • cervical,
  • slabinski,
  • box.

Women more often than men develop osteochondrosis of the cervical and thoracic regions. This phenomenon is due to the fact that men, by nature, have more strongly developed chest muscles. Therefore, these departments have the best support. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the muscles of the back and neck with appropriate exercises whenever possible.

Cervical osteochondrosis is most common in women who lead an inactive life or engage in inactive work (office work, salespeople, drivers), and thoracic osteochondrosis is most common in women who have had scoliosis since childhood.

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis

diagnosis and treatment of osteochondrosis

To make a 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 phase, can be fatal.

Timely treatment will help avoid serious, irreversible consequences.

Diagnosis of osteochondrosis

Here is an example list of specialist doctors to help you understand the problem.

  • General practitioner. Therapists perform general diagnostics without treatment, prescribe general tests (urine, blood biochemistry). They take into account your individual complaints and continue to refer you to the right expert.
  • Neurologist. A neurologist treats the initial and intermediate stages of cervical osteochondrosis. During the visit to the neurologist, an X-ray of the spine is usually done. In confirmed osteochondrosis, appropriate treatment is selected.
  • Trauma surgeon. Consultations with this specialist are prescribed if there are changes in the tissues. Maybe the appointment of MRI, spondylography, CT. Further treatment was also selected.
  • Neurosurgeon. Consultation with a neurosurgeon is prescribed if an intervertebral hernia is suspected, referring to the results of CT and MRI.
  • Physiotherapist. It deals with the elimination of clinical manifestations of osteochondrosis.
  • Rehabilitologist. Rehabilitation therapist treatment involves a period of recovery after surgery. During this period, special therapeutic exercises (exercise therapy) are selected.
  • Chiropractor. Prescribed to relieve pain.
  • Rheumatologist. He gives advice and prescribes a diagnosis to people with various forms of arthritis.
  • Oncologist. A visit to an oncologist is indicated for people with suspicious CT and MRI findings. Consultations with experts help to confirm or exclude the presence of tumor diseases of bone tissue. A 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. Properly selected drugs restore blood circulation and healthy tissue nutrition.

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


Physiotherapy involves a combination of natural and hardware 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 suitable for home use (massagers and various applicators).

Before using a home manual therapy product, you should consult a professional.


Reflexology has an effect due to its 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 treatment, make sure you have a qualified professional in front of you, as exposure to inappropriate biological points can have negative consequences.

exercise therapy

Physiotherapeutic exercises (LFK) for osteochondrosis must be prescribed in the recovery phase. The purpose of exercise therapy is to strengthen ligaments and muscles, exercise helps to restore blood flow.

Properly selected exercises can help prevent recurrence and deepen damage.

Exercises for cervical osteochondrosis

In conclusion, we present several exercises from the complex of physiotherapy exercises.

Consult a doctor before exercising.

Exercise complex exercises can be uncomfortable, so before you do that, try to relax as much as possible and make sure your breathing is calm and measured.

Muscle overload during exercise is not recommended. Do as much as you can, and then, after a break, go back to exercise.

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

In 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. Applying pressure to the shoulders, tighten the neck muscles and resist the pressure. Repeat the same movements to the right. Repeat the first exercise, bending back and forth.
  2. Turn your head to the right, trying to reach your shoulder with your chin, hold for a few seconds. Repeat the exercise by turning left.
  3. Draw numbers 0 to 9 in the air with your chin.

Back exercises:

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

Side lying exercises:

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