Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

Cervical osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis is a lesion of intervertebral discs of degenerative-dystrophic nature, and the cervical region is the most sensitive part of the spine, which has an anatomically different structure of very close adjacent vertebrae and a weak muscular corset. Therefore, even with small additional loads on the neck, vertebral displacement can occur, leading to compression of blood vessels and nerves.

And since the spinal arteries involved in the blood supply to the brain pass through holes in the transverse processes of the vertebrae in this section, pinching the vertebrae in this section or squeezing the holes overgrown with osteophytes is fraught with very serious consequences.

What is this?

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a polyetiologically progressive disease that is manifested by degeneration of the intervertebral discs and degeneration of the ligamentous apparatus of the spine.

Reasons for

The main causes and preconditions for the occurrence of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine are:

  1. Spinal curvature, scoliosis.
  2. Stress, nervous tension negatively affects the general condition of the body, can cause cervical osteochondrosis.
  3. Past infectious diseases often become the root cause.
  4. Irregular, uncomfortable body position during sleep (for example, uncomfortable pillow).
  5. Congenital problems or the presence of hereditary diseases of the cervical spine.
  6. Poor behavior in adolescents and adolescents.
  7. Overweight, obesity of varying degrees. Excess weight increases the load on the vertebrae and discs, which leads to degenerative processes.
  8. Back injuries that may have occurred during childhood or adolescence.
  9. Disorder of metabolic processes.
  10. Work related to physical work, which can cause diseases of the spine in different parts.
  11. Inactive lifestyle, inactive work, improper exercise.

For successful treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, it is first necessary to determine the cause, the preconditions that caused its development and remove them. Until recently, the disease only occurred in people over the age of 45. Now young people are exposed to it, the age range is 18-25 years.

Characteristics of the cervical spine

Consider how the cervical spine differs from the rest of the spine and that it is a prerequisite for the development of these syndromes during the development of osteochondrosis.

  • There are important ganglia (nodes) of the autonomic nervous system in the cervical region.
  • In the transverse processes of the vertebrae, there are holes that form the canal through which the spinal artery passes, which supplies the brain, brain, hearing organs, as well as the spinal nerve, with oxygen and nutrients. These are prerequisites for frequent constriction of the artery and nerve.
  • The cervical spine is the fastest moving. It is characterized by all kinds of movements completely. These are prerequisites for frequent violations and subluxations.
  • The intervertebral foramen of the lower three vertebrae are not round but triangular. These are prerequisites for the contraction of nerve roots by bone growths formed in osteochondrosis.
  • Intervertebral discs are not located between the vertebral bodies along their entire length. In the anterior part, instead, there are protruding edges of the vertebrae connected by joints. These are prerequisites for the occurrence of joint subluxation.

Stages of development

The degree of osteochondrosis is determined by the clinical picture and the patient's complaints. The term degree should not be confused with the stages of osteochondrosis. The phases are discussed below.

  1. First degree. Clinical manifestations are minimal, the patient may complain of low-intensity cervical spine pain, which may worsen when turning the head. Physical examination may show mild muscle tension in the neck.
  2. Second degree. The patient is worried about pain in the cervical spine, its intensity is much higher, radiation can occur in the shoulder, in the arm. This occurs due to a decrease in the height of the intervertebral disc and pinching of the nerve roots. Painful sensations increase when tilting and turning the head. The patient may notice decreased performance, weakness, headache.
  3. Third degree. The symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis intensify, the pain becomes constant with radiation on the arm or shoulder. Numbness or weakness occurs in the muscles of the arm as herniated intervertebral discs form. Worried about weakness, dizziness. Examination reveals limited mobility of the cervical spine, pain on palpation of the cervical spine.
  4. Fourth degree. There is a complete destruction of the intervertebral disc and its replacement by connective tissue. Dizziness increases, tinnitus appears, coordination is disturbed, because the process includes the vertebral artery that feeds the cerebellum and the occipital lobe of the brain.


The severity of the symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis depends on the degree of destruction of the spinal structures. Symptoms are exacerbated by the growth of bone tissue by the formation of osteophytes, radicular syndrome (radicular pain when the nerve is compressed), intervertebral hernia (protrusion of the disc into the spinal canal).

The first signs of the disease are recurrent headaches in the back of the head, neck pain, cracking and clicking in the vertebrae when turning the head, and sometimes a slight tingling in the shoulders. Over time, the symptoms increase and the intensity of the pain increases.

Pain syndrome is the main manifestation of osteochondrosis. Neck pain is dull, constant or sharp with lumbago below the nape of the neck when turning the head. The entire cervical region or the projection area of ​​the modified vertebra, as well as the collarbone, shoulder, shoulder blade, and heart area, can ache. Radiation of pain in the lower jaw, teeth, arm, ear, eye area is not excluded. The muscles of the neck and shoulders are tense, painful on palpation. Difficulty in lifting the arm from the side of the lesion - there is immediately a lumbago in the shoulder or neck. Restriction of head movement due to pain often occurs in the morning after sleeping in an uncomfortable position.

The disease leads to compression of the roots of the peripheral nerves (radicular syndrome) and causes pain during their nervousness. Perhaps numbness of the hands or fingers, impaired sensitivity of certain areas of the skin innervated by a pinched nerve.

Some characteristic symptoms indicate which vertebrae are affected:

  • C1 - impaired sensitivity in the occipital region;
  • C2 - pain in the occipital and parietal region;
  • C3 - decreased sensitivity and pain in half of the neck where the spinal nerve is injured, probably impaired sensitivity of the tongue, impaired speech due to loss of control over the tongue;
  • C4 - impaired sensitivity and pain in the shoulder-scapular area, decreased tone of the muscles of the head and neck, possible respiratory disorders, pain in the liver and heart;
  • C5 - pain and sensory disturbances on the outer surface of the shoulder;
  • C6 - pain that spreads from the neck to the shoulder blade, forearm, outer surface of the shoulder, radial surface of the forearm to the thumb;
  • C7 - pain that spreads from the neck to the shoulder blade, back of the shoulder, forearm to the fingers II - IV of the hand, impaired sensitivity in this area.
  • C8 - pain and sensory disturbances spread from the neck to the shoulders, forearms to the little finger.

Cervical osteochondrosis is always accompanied by headache. Strong, lasting pains are intensified by turning the neck or sudden movements. Some patients complain of heaviness in the head. Compression of the vertebral artery leads to an attack of dizziness, nausea. There is noise, ringing in the ears, flickering black dots in front of the eyes. Deterioration of cerebral circulation causes a progressive decrease in hearing and vision acuity, numbness of the tongue and a change in taste.

Clicks or crunches during neck movements almost always accompany cervical osteochondrosis, observed in every patient. Crunching occurs during a sharp turn of the head or throwing back.

Syndromes due to cervical osteochondrosis

The symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis are grouped into special groups called syndromes. Their presence and severity may indicate pathology of the cervical spine with a specific localization.

Group of common syndromes:

  1. Vegetative-dystonic syndrome. Subluxation of the first cervical vertebra by displacement can lead to the development of vegetative-vascular dystonia. VSD is not a definitive diagnosis because it has no pronounced symptoms. There may be neurological signs, symptoms of impaired cerebral blood flow, jumps in intracranial pressure, muscle cramps. As a result, the patient's complaints are reduced to dizziness, decreased visual acuity, loss of consciousness, headache, nausea.
  2. Irritating - reflexive. Burning and sharp pain in the back of the head and neck, sometimes with a return to the chest and shoulder, occurred at the time of changing the position of the head and neck, with sneezing and a sharp turn of the head.
  3. Radicular. Otherwise called cervical radiculitis, it combines symptoms associated with injury to the nerve roots of the cervical spine. It is characterized by "chills" in the affected area, tingling in the fingers, forearms, pasty skin, spreading to certain fingers.
  4. Hearty. Almost the same picture with angina pectoris often leads to misdiagnosis and treatment. The syndrome occurs due to irritation of the phrenic nerve receptors, partly affecting the main muscle of the pericardium and chest. Therefore, cramps in the heart area are more reflexive, like the response to irritation of the cervical nerves.
  5. Spinal artery syndrome. It develops directly by compressing the artery itself, as well as by irritating the plexus of the sympathetic nerve that is around it. Pain in this pathology is a burning or pulsation in the occipital region and extends to the temples, adrenal arches, crown. It occurs on both sides. Patients usually associate worsening with the condition after sleeping in an unphysiological position, traveling in transport, walking. Severe symptoms may include hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and high blood pressure.


Like any diagnosis in medicine, the diagnosis of osteochondrosis is established based on the patient's complaints, medical history, clinical examination and auxiliary research methods. Radiography of the cervical spine is performed in frontal and lateral projections, if necessary in special positions (with open mouth). At the same time, experts are interested in the height of the intervertebral discs, the presence of osteophytes.

Of the modern research methods, NMR and CT studies are used, which enable the most accurate verification of the diagnosis. In addition to the above methods of additional research, it may be necessary to consult related experts (cardiologists, ophthalmologists, neurosurgeons), and an examination by a neurologist is simply vital. A neurologist is engaged in the treatment of osteochondrosis, so after the examination of the patient, he will prescribe the necessary minimum examination at his own discretion.

How to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical spine?

Comprehensive treatment of cervical osteochondrosis may include the following traditional and non-traditional methods: drug treatment, massage, acupressure, manual therapy, physiotherapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, folk remedies, etc.

The main treatment regimen for osteochondrosis is the same for all localizations of this disease:

  • You need to ease the pain first.
  • Then the swelling subsides.
  • At this stage it is necessary to normalize blood circulation.
  • Strengthening the muscular corset.
  • Improving nutrition and tissue regeneration.

The list of drugs and medications to treat cervical osteochondrosis at home is very extensive:

  1. Anti-inflammatory (steroid). These are hormonal drugs that relieve inflammation and thus eliminate pain;
  2. Analgesics (non-steroidal pain medications). They are usually prescribed in the form of tablets or capsules. It should be borne in mind that most of these drugs cause irritation of the mucous membranes of the digestive tract;
  3. Muscle relaxants are drugs that relax muscle tone. They are used in surgery and orthopedics as aids to relieve pain. These drugs are administered parenterally and are therefore always under medical supervision. There is an extensive list of contraindications;
  4. Osteochondrosis of the neck
  5. Chondroprotectors are drugs that contain substances that replace cartilage components. In order to achieve a lasting positive effect, such drugs must be taken for a very long time;
  6. Ointments and gels for external use. This is the most affordable group of medicines for use at home. They are divided into relieving inflammation, warming and relieving pain. Such funds are often advertised. Not all fats are effective in cervical osteochondrosis, in addition, due to their availability, they are sometimes used unreasonably and without taking into account the peculiarities of the pathogenesis.
  7. Vitamins. In osteochondrosis, vitamins are prescribed that have a beneficial effect on the peripheral nervous system and improve conduction. Water-soluble vitamins: B1, B6, B12, fat-soluble vitamins: A, C, D, E. In recent years, combined preparations containing painkillers and vitamin components have been increasingly prescribed.

Only a team of good professionals can choose the most appropriate therapy, which includes a neurologist, physiotherapist, massage therapist, surgeon, vertebral neurologist.


Exercise therapy for cervical osteochondrosis should be performed outside of acute exacerbation. The greatest efficiency of this technique is during the recovery period. There should be no discomfort or pain during the performance of the complex!

  • Exercise # 1. Lying on your stomach, put your hands on the floor, lift your head and torso, your back should be straight. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes. Slowly lower yourself to the floor. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • Exercise # 2. Lying on your stomach, extend your arms along your body, turn your head to the left, try to touch the floor with your ear, and then your head to the right. Repeat 6-7 times in each direction.
  • Exercise # 3. In a sitting position, while inhaling, bend forward and try to touch your head to your chest, then exhale, bend back and tilt your head back. Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Exercise # 4. While sitting, place your palms on your forehead, press your palms to your forehead, and your forehead to your palms. Continue this exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • Exercise no. 5. Slowly rotate your head first in one direction and then in the other. 10 rotations in each direction. Watch out for dizziness. When it appears, the exercise stops.

Massage therapy

You can perform the massage at home, but very carefully so as not to aggravate and harm the patient. The patient should take a position, put his forehead on his hands and stretch his chin towards his chest. The neck muscles must be completely relaxed.

  1. Smoothing. It is necessary to start the massage with these movements: caress the hem of the collar in the direction from the lymph to the supraclavicular and axillary nodes. Then apply straight and combed strokes.
  2. Push-ups. To perform the push-up, the masseur puts his hand over his neck (forefinger and thumb should be together) and moves down the spine. Push-ups can also be performed with the edge of the palm to the shoulder joints.
  3. Therapeutic massage for cervical chondrosis
  4. Rubbing. Rubbing is performed to warm the muscles, relax and improve blood flow to the area. The massage should start from the base of the skull, performing circular and rectangular movements with the fingers. You can also perform sawing movements with the palms parallel to the ribs.
  5. Kneading. The neck should be kneaded in a circular motion.
  6. Vibration. The massage ends with shocks and vibrations, which are performed by shaking and tapping.

Massage is necessary to strengthen muscle tone and relieve pain. Depending on the stage of osteochondrosis, the massage technique is chosen. However, while doing neck massage, experts use all the techniques of classical massage: rubbing, smoothing, kneading, etc. In cases when the patient has pain on only one side, the massage begins in the healthy part of the neck, gradually moving to the part of the collar zone where painful sensations occur.

Manual therapy

Manual therapy helps to cope with acute and chronic pain, also increases range of motion and improves posture well. The main methods of manual therapy of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine:

  1. Relaxing and segmental massage. It is used to warm up muscles and relieve tension.
  2. Mobilization. Influences aimed at restoring joint function by traction.
  3. Manipulation. Sharp thrust directed at the patient's pathological areas. The procedure is followed by a characteristic crunch (return of the joint to a normal position).

A chiropractor should be fluent in these techniques. Otherwise, any mistake may result in injury.

Orthopedic pillow

Orthopedic pillows

Orthopedic sleeping pillows are an effective means of prevention. In many cases, osteochondrosis is exacerbated by additional compression of the cervical artery and nerve roots while sleeping on an uncomfortable pillow. The orthopedic product ensures a uniform horizontal position of the person during sleep and thus guarantees a physiologically adequate blood supply to the brain.

When choosing a pillow, the individual anatomical features of the person should be taken into account and related to the volume and characteristics of the filler. Properly chosen pillow brings tangible benefits for a patient with osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.


Physiotherapy procedures for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine:

  1. Electrophoresis. It should be used with painkillers (anesthetics), which are injected under the skin with electronic impulses.
  2. Ultrasound. It has a beneficial effect on metabolic processes in the tissues of the cervical spine, due to which the swelling is removed, the pain passes.
  3. Magnetotherapy. A safe method of treatment that consists of exposing damaged cells to a low frequency magnetic field. It has an analgesic effect, acts as an anti-inflammatory.
  4. Laser therapy. Improves blood circulation in the affected area, relieves tissue swelling, pain.

Physiotherapy procedures have a beneficial effect on the discs and vertebrae in cervical osteochondrosis. Combined with medication, combined treatment helps address the symptoms of the disease. The procedures are performed in a hospital or in specialized rooms of a polyclinic. Before starting the course you need to consult a doctor, determine the duration of physiotherapy, the type. Transmission during exacerbations is strictly forbidden.

Shants collar

Trench collar

The Shants necklace is a soft and comfortable device, fastened with posterior velcro straps and used for cervical osteochondrosis. But not for treatment, but for temporary relaxation and alleviation of fatigue. It cannot be worn without stripping, otherwise the neck muscles will stop working and soon atrophy. If the Shants collar is chosen correctly, the patient feels comfortable and protected.

The necklace is chosen strictly according to the size in the pharmacy or orthopedic store. Better in the store, because the people who work there, as a rule, know their business and product characteristics quite well, which means that they can help in each specific case.

Folk remedies

If the pain from osteochondrosis of the spine becomes unbearable and regular, you will agree to stop everything and here the traditional complex treatment will be successfully supplemented with alternative methods.

  • Insist on celery root (5 grams per 1 liter of boiling water) 4 hours, drink a tablespoon before each meal;
  • honey compress, for which we take 2 tsp. honey and 1 tablet of mummy. The components are heated in a water bath, spread on a cloth and applied at night to the area of ​​the cervix, ie the neck;
  • In case of acute pain, horseradish growing in the ground helps me. I just wash his leaf, pour boiling water over it, cool it down a bit, apply it on his neck and wrap it in a thin scarf for the night - in the morning you can already live and work;
  • chamomile flowers insist on vegetable oil for two days, heat to boiling (for 500 ml of oil you need 30 grams of the plant), rub into painful areas;
  • Honey potato compress also helps, for this it is necessary to grate root vegetables and mix with honey in the same amount, apply it on a sore neck at night, use it regularly, at least once a week.


As usual, proper prophylaxis will help avoid cervical osteochondrosis, but of course all physical exercise must be used regularly, otherwise "periodic" exercise will be of little use.

Simple rules to remember:

  • Eat lots of foods with calcium and magnesium. These are fish, peas, legumes, nuts, cheese, herbs, but it is better to refrain from sugar, flour, smoked, spicy.
  • for regular exercise, especially swimming, water aerobics, stretching gymnastics and spine flexibility is also suitable for the prevention of osteochondrosis that can be exercised at home.
  • When you sit, perform a special set of exercises at least a few times a day.
  • Choose a good orthopedic mattress and pillow that is ideal for the neck, supporting your head in the correct anatomical position during sleep (yes, your favorite huge pillows for down will not disappear with spine problems! )

If you already have such a diagnosis, then the patient should spare the spine, as follows:

  1. Be very careful with lifting and carrying weights, it’s better to go to the store twice than to pull heavy bags in both hands, incredibly straining your neck and shoulder girdle;
  2. Don't cool down, avoid drafts and the flow of cold air from the air conditioner (some people like to cool off on a hot day, with their backs to the fan);
  3. When you bend your torso forward - remember osteochondrosis;
  4. Avoid local muscle overheating, which can occur in excessively hot baths;
  5. Remember to periodically detach from the monitor, change body position, do not sit for hours or even days;
  6. Rest your neck by buying a Shants necklace;
  7. If possible, if the condition of the cardiovascular system allows, take a steam bath.

In conclusion, I would like to say that a child at risk of osteochondrosis (father and mother already have it) and an adult who has acquired the disease during their lifetime are simply obliged to take preventive measures so as not to become disabled and end up on the operating table. this operation is quite complex and requires long-term rehabilitation. In addition, this is not always possible, as there are inoperable cases, so it is better to protect your health from small feet, as long as the discs are intact and unnecessary growths do not squeeze the blood vessels.