Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine: treatment, symptoms

To date, the disease has become very "younger" and more and more often people aged 25 and older are exposed to it, although more recently the age from 30-35 years old was considered risky. Pathologies of the cervical part are more common, so you need to be able to quickly recognize the symptoms of the disease in order to start treatment.

neck pain with cervical osteochondrosis

And so, what is called osteochondrosis of the cervical spine? This term characterizes the degenerative-dystophilic process in the intervertebral disc, which acts as a kind of shock absorber between the segments of the spine. This situation leads to changes in its structure and anatomy, segments and articular elements of the cervical spine. Osteochondrosis of the neck is characterized by sharp pain symptoms that require timely treatment.

Causes of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

Where does cervical osteochondrosis come from? A little below we list the factors, chronic or severe action of which leads to increased stress in the neck. As a result, the body compensates for the increased loads with the work of the muscles, however, due to constant tension, spasms occur in them with impaired blood circulation. Together, these factors lead to degenerative changes in the spine, changes in its structure, problems with blood nutrition and metabolism. Next comes the turn of changes in the intervertebral joints, there is an overgrowth of the bone tissue of the segments of the spine.

Let's list the factors contributing to the development of the disease:

  • Scoliosis and poor posture.
  • Excess weight.
  • Long stay in wrong and unnatural positions.
  • Regular overstrain of the back and cervical spine, for example, due to the peculiarities of work.
  • Low mobility, sedentary physical inactivity.
  • Injury to the spine in the past.
  • Metabolic problems.
  • Excessive physical activity.
  • Stress overstrain, prolonged susceptibility to depression.
  • The factor of heredity.
  • Abnormal development of the vertebrae.

Degrees of cervical osteochondrosis

It is necessary to be able to distinguish between the concepts of ‘stage’ and ‘degree’, which characterize osteochondrosis of the cervical spine. We will consider the stages a little later, now we will talk about the degrees that depend on the general clinical condition and complaints of the patient, have different symptoms and require, accordingly, different treatment.

  • First degree - 1. . . Cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by minor manifestations of the disease, the main symptoms are pain in the neck region, which does not appear often, intensifying if you turn your head. They may be accompanied by slightly tense muscles.
  • Second degree - 2. . . The severity of pain and symptoms are much stronger and they are able to give to the shoulder area. This is due to the fact that the intervertebral disc became lower in height, which led to nerve pinching. Pain syndrome tends to increase with movement, a feeling of weakness and headache lead to reduced performance.
  • Third degree - 3. . . This development of cervical osteochondrosis is characterized by the formation of hernias in the intervertebral space. Differences from the previous degrees are in the symptoms, which are even more pronounced and painful - it gives off more intensely to the shoulder and arm, in them a feeling of numbness and weakness is possible. The disease is accompanied by the same headache, weakness, neck mobility is limited, and a distinct pain syndrome is detected when palpating.
  • Fourth degree - 4. . . This degree is characterized by complete destruction of the tissues of the intervertebral disc. Problems with blood supply to the brain are likely, in particular, through the vertebral artery, which delivers blood to the cerebellar and back of the head. Against this background, there are difficulties with coordination, dizzy, ringing in the ears.

Symptoms of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

Cervical osteochondrosis has some differences from osteochondrosis in other areas. They arise due to the closer arrangement of the segments relative to each other, the more complex structure of the first two segments - atlas and axis. In addition, there are fewer shock absorbers between the elements of the spine, and, accordingly, they wear out and break down faster. In addition, it is cervical osteochondrosis that often leads to compression of the nerves of the spinal cord.

Cervical osteochondrosis - the most common symptoms:

  • Painful sensations. . . They are characterized by different localization - in the back of the head, shoulder and cervical regions. The onset of pain in the shoulder joint indicates pressure on the nerve responsible for the transmission of pain impulses in this location. Occipital pain reflects the presence of a spasm of the neck muscles due to difficulty with blood flow in this area. Perhaps a feeling of pain in the vertebra, the presence of a crunch.
  • Weakness in the hand. . . It manifests itself due to damage to the nerve responsible for the motor activity of the upper limbs.
  • Poor sensitivity in the hand. . . The nerve that innervates the skin on the arm is damaged.
  • Limited movement, crunch. . . It is a consequence of the low height of the intervertebral disc, bone growth in the segments of the spine, the presence of small affected structures.
  • Coordination problems, feeling weak and dizzy. . . Due to the progress of the pathology, fibrous tissue is formed. It partially leads to constriction of the vertebral artery, which has its own canal in the elements of the spine. This reduces the lumen of the vessel, creating a blood deficit in the occiput and cerebellum.
  • Hearing, vision, speech problems. . . They are a further development of the constriction of the vessel feeding the cerebellar and occipital area.


Diagnosis is carried out in the presence of characteristic symptoms and complaints of a person. Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is diagnosed by various methods, mainly aimed at visualizing the state of the damaged part. Most often used:

  • Radiography. It is not very informative, shows only the presence of deviations, it is mainly suitable for early diagnosis.
  • Computed tomography. Compared to radiography, the display of pathologies of the cervical spine segments is improved, but it does not accurately determine the presence of a hernia, what size it is. In addition, this procedure cannot determine the ‘constriction’ of the canal with the spinal cord.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging. Such a diagnosis is the most modern, it is characterized by increased information content, it allows you to assess in detail the defects of the bone structure, the state of the intervertebral discs, the existence of hernias, their size and direction of growth.
  • If there is a suspicion of a deterioration in the current in the vertebral arteries, additional diagnostics are carried out using the ultrasound duplex scanning procedure. Such a study accurately determines the presence of obstacles that reduce the rate of blood flow.

Based on the data obtained during the diagnosis, we can talk about various stages:

  • Stage 1, characterized by minor violations of the anatomy of the vertebrae.
  • Stage 2. . . Probably non-observance of the position of the vertebrae relative to each other, displacement, rotation relative to the axis of the spine, the intervertebral disc may have a slightly reduced height.
  • Stage 3. . . The disc is reduced in height by a quarter, the joints are changed, there are outgrowths of bone tissue, tightness of the intervertebral foramen and the spinal canal.
  • Stage 4. . . It is still more aggravated than the previous one. The disc is greatly reduced in height, there are deep articular pathologies and extensive bone growths behind, the spinal canal and passages under the spinal cord are strongly compressed.

Treatment of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

The main methods of such treatment are: drug therapy, physiotherapy, the use of massage of the affected area, therapeutic gymnastics. Let's take a closer look at some of the methods.

Drug treatment

The prescription of any drug should only be handled by a competent specialist.

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs of non-steroidal origin. Their action is effective removal of pain syndrome, inflammatory and edematous process of the clamped nerve endings.
  • Vitamin B is taken to improve metabolic processes in the vertebrae and nerves.
  • Medicines that increase blood flow. Used to nourish altered nerve endings and improve blood flow to the brain.
  • Chondroprotectors used to restore the tissue of cartilage and intervertebral discs.
  • Muscle relaxants, anti-spasms.


  • Electrophoresis. . . Delivery of drug ions to the desired part of the pathology using the action of an electric field. Before the procedure, novocaine anesthesia is performed, and aminophylline is also used, which improves blood flow.
  • By ultrasound. . . Relieves inflammation, pain, promotes metabolism at the site of application.
  • Magnetotherapy. . . Has analgesic effect, relieves swelling.
  • Laser therapy. . . Treatment is carried out by exposure to light waves of a special frequency. It relieves inflammation well and promotes blood circulation.


Physiotherapy is allowed only in the absence of exacerbations of the disease. The techniques will be effective in the absence of pain and discomfort during execution, in addition, they are very effective as a means of prevention. Here are a few basic exercises:

  1. Lie on your stomach and rest your bent arms on the floor. Perform head and torso lifts for 60-90 seconds, keeping your back straight, and then smoothly return to its original position. Do 2-3 reps.
  2. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended downward along the body. Turn your head left, right, in turn, trying to reach the floor with your ear. Do 5-7 reps with each side.
  3. In a sitting position, inhaling, bend forward, trying to reach the chest with your head. Then, on the exhale, on the contrary, tilt back, throwing your head back. Do 12 reps.
  4. In a seated position, put your palms on your forehead. Apply mutual pressure of the forehead to the palm and vice versa. Continue up to half a minute, repeating 3 times.
  5. Neat unhurried rotation of the heads to the sides, 5-7 rotations each. If you feel dizzy, then reduce the number of repetitions, or slow down the speed.

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine: question - answer

Does it happen that osteochondrosis of the cervical spine has to be treated with surgery?

It happens, but in those rare cases when conservative treatment does not give an effect half a year after its start. In such situations, chronic pain and tightness of the nerve endings are usually present.

How long can you take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs?

Most of these drugs affect the condition of the gastric mucosa, so their frequent and regular use is not recommended. The exact duration of taking medications is determined by the attending physician, who has information about the stage of osteochondrosis in the patient, as well as whether there are concomitant pathologies.

Are chondroprotective drugs effective in restoring the tissue of damaged intervertebral discs?

Confirmation of the effect of taking such drugs has not been proven, as a result of which doctors rarely recommend them.

What to do at home when there is no exacerbation in order to avoid exacerbation in the future?

For preventive purposes, the best will be to use physiotherapy exercises, massage of the cervical zone, rejection of significant physical activity.