Osteochondrosis: symptoms, causes, methods of treatment

Excessive tension in the back muscles causes a lot of discomfort and pain. Osteochondrosis, which causes a violation of the structure of the vertebrae and intervertebral discs, leads to severe pinching of nerve endings. Often the pathology is accompanied by deterioration of blood circulation, which provokes disturbances in the nutrition of the brain and internal organs.

Osteochondrosis - what is it?

what is osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis is a recurrent type of disease that occurs in a chronic form and is accompanied by destruction of the vertebrae with intervertebral discs. Their tissues are damaged, which provokes a decrease in the degree of their elasticity, followed by a change in shape. There is a gradual reduction of the intervertebral space. This causes a loss of stability of the spine in the areas of pathology development.

The processes of pathological tissue destruction take place against the background of pinched nerve endings, which are directed from the area where the spinal cord is located. As a result, the muscles of the back are in constant tension. In such a situation, patients complain of back pain and other symptoms.

Based on the peculiarities of the localization of the structures of the spine, which have been covered by degenerative changes, the cervical, thoracic and lumbosacral types of the pathological process are distinguished. The main symptom of the development of osteochondrosis is pain, the intensity and severity of which usually increase during exercise.

There is also stiffness in movement. In addition, the clinical picture is characterized by the presence of signs of vertebral type - headache, changes in blood pressure, deterioration of visual function, hearing, etc.

Development Mechanism

The development of osteochondrosis is associated with the fact that the nucleus pulposus begins to lose its hydrophilic properties. This semi-liquid structure contains connective tissue fibers and chondroitin, a gelatinous substance. In the process of development of the human body and its growth, the processes of reduction of the vascular bed in the intervertebral discs are actively underway. Nutrients are delivered in a diffuse manner, which manifests itself in the spontaneous stabilization of the concentration. This characteristic causes difficulties in the complete recovery of cartilage that has suffered damage or excessive pressure on the spine.

Pathological abnormalities are becoming more striking due to disturbances in the hormonal background and human nutrition. Cartilage tissue begins to lack the nutrients needed for its normal development. Therefore, the violations appear in the form:

  • reduction of strength and elasticity;
  • changes the sequence parameters and configuration properties.
mechanism of development of osteochondrosis

Against the background of flattening of the intervertebral discs, the formation of radial cracks in the fibrous rings occurs. As a result, the intervertebral distance decreases and the facet joints begin to shift. Over time, the pathological changes involve types of connective tissue associated with fibrous rings and ligaments.

As tissues are broken down by the immune system, increased amounts of immunoglobulins are produced. This provokes the development of the process of aseptic inflammation, swelling is formed in the area where the facet joints are located. They also spread to nearby soft tissues.

Due to the stretching of the joint capsules, the intervertebral discs lose their ability to fix the vertebrae. Such instability in the position of the structure of the spine increases the risks of pinching the nerve roots or squeezing the blood vessels. This characteristic is characteristic, for example, of cervical osteochondrosis, which is accompanied by intense verbal symptoms.

Causes of the disease

The condition of the intervertebral discs may worsen with decreased skeletal muscle tone in the spine. Due to the irrational and asymmetrical work of the muscles, with the long-term preservation of the non-physiological position of the body, destruction of the cartilage tissues can occur. This disorder is the result of carrying heavy bags on the same shoulder, using soft mattresses and high pillows.

The process of destruction of the intervertebral discs is accelerated due to the action of a number of negative factors of external and internal nature. These include:

  • disorders of the endocrine mechanism and metabolic disorders;
  • pathologies of infectious nature, including in chronic form;
  • spinal injuries in the form of compression fractures, bruises;
  • regular and prolonged hypothermia of the body;
  • diseases of systemic and degenerative-dystrophic type - gout, psoriatic, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis;
  • smoking and alcohol abuse, which disrupts the condition of the vascular system, impairs blood circulation and provokes a lack of nutrients in the cartilage;
  • insufficient physical development, posture problems, flat feet - these defects increase the load on the spine, as cushioning will be insufficient;
  • obesity;
  • genetic predisposition;
  • Exposure to regular stress.


signs and symptoms of osteochondrosis

The main clinical sign of osteochondrosis of any location (cervical, thoracic or lumbosacral) is the pain syndrome. In case of recurrence, the pain is penetrating, radiating to nearby areas of the body. Even with a slight movement it intensifies. This forces the patient to place the torso in a forced position to minimize discomfort and pain:

  • in cervical osteochondrosis it will be preferable to turn not one head but the whole body;
  • when there is a thoracic form of the disease, it is difficult for the patient to take a deep breath and therefore, in order to exclude acute chest pain, he tries to minimize the depth and frequency of breathing;
  • in patients with lumbar type of disease, difficulties arise when sitting, occupying an upright position, moving because the nerve of the spinal cord is compressed.

Patients usually complain of dull, constant pain and a feeling of stiffness in the morning movements. In this case, a differential diagnosis will be required to help eliminate the risks of developing myositis caused by skeletal spinal muscle inflammation or osteoarthritis.

Pain and pressure occur due to compensatory tension in muscle tissue. This condition is necessary to stabilize the area of ​​movement of the spine. Persistent mild or moderate pain may occur with significant dilation of the intervertebral disc and be the result of aseptic inflammatory changes.

Osteochondrosis of a separate localization is characterized by special symptoms:

  1. Cervical osteochondrosis causes pain in the cervical region, in the upper extremities. Headache and numbness of the fingers are observed. If the disease is severe, then a spinal artery pinch may occur. In this case, the patient begins to complain of significant deterioration in health.
  2. Localization of the chest is manifested by acute and painful back pain, visceral pain syndrome is present in the heart area, right hypochondrium and abdomen. Patients complain of tingling, paresthesia of the skin, shortness of breath, crunch in the vertebrae.
  3. Patients with lumbar osteochondrosis complain of back and lower limb pain with increased intensity during movement. Disorders of the functioning of the genitourinary system, problems with male potency, dysfunctional ovaries are often diagnosed. During remission, pain may decrease. However, the impact of a provoking factor leads to its renewal.
  4. how osteochondrosis manifests itself
  5. When mixed osteochondrosis occurs, the symptoms may appear in several areas simultaneously. This condition is characterized by a more severe course of the disease.

It should be remembered that vertebral displacement and osteophyte formation cause compression of the vertebral artery. It nourishes the brain by providing its cells with an oxygen component. When squeezing, food is limited and therefore the patient has problems with coordination, headache, tinnitus and hypertension.

Consequences if left untreated

The reason for the complicated course of osteochondrosis is the relatively rapid formation of hernias in the intervertebral discs. Their appearance is associated with the displacement of the spinal structure in the posterior direction. This provokes a rupture of the posterior ligament of the longitudinal type, as a result of which there is instability of the position of the disc, protrusion of its individual sections in the area of ​​the spinal canal. A hernia rupture occurs when a disc with a pulpal nucleus penetrates the canal area.

With the manifestation of pathological abnormalities in the spinal structures, the back of the brain begins to shrink, the patient develops discogenic myelopathy. The symptoms of this condition are associated with numbness and weakness in certain muscle groups of the upper and lower limbs. Paresis, muscle atrophy and tendon reflexes occur. In some cases, there are problems with emptying the bladder, with the intestines.

Disc herniations are dangerous by squeezing the arteries that supply the spinal cord. The result of this pathology is the formation of ischemic areas where nerve cells have suffered damage and death. The manifestation of the neurological effect is expressed in impaired motor function, decreased sensitivity and trophism disorder.

Diagnosis of diseases

methods for diagnosing osteochondrosis

The initial diagnosis is made based on the patient's complaints and symptoms. The specialist examines the condition of the spine in different positions, assuming that the patient is at rest or in motion. At the next stage, the patient is directed to laboratory diagnostics, which will help him clarify the diagnosis or refute it.

The test methods used include:

  1. Radiography- provides a complete examination of the spine with an assessment of the condition of the vertebrae, existing disorders in the form of growths, distortions. The specialist will be able to determine the intervals of the intervertebral type, the condition of the holes. To accurately identify osteochondrosis located in the chest or cervix, a two-stage X-ray examination is performed. In the first stage, the patient lies on his side, and in the second, directly on his back.
  2. The method of tomography by MRI or CTprovides highly informative data that help to examine the vertebrae in detail without interference in the form of organs that cover them. The picture shows the nerves and the vascular system. MRI helps to identify the signs of many diseases of the spine and the location of the injury. CT scans reveal hernias, determine possible deviations in the structure of the spine.
  3. Laboratory testto assess the condition of the blood and its basic parameters. It allows you to clarify the diagnosis and determine the possibility of developing comorbidities.

In many cases, as a result of examinations, doctors diagnose the presence of certain background diseases that are potentially dangerous for their complications. We are talking, for example, about hernias, bulges, radiculitis. Proper diagnosis of the problems helps to effectively treat osteochondrosis. At the same time, the disease itself in the early stages of development is disguised as symptoms of other diseases.

Therapeutic process

Osteochondrosis is treated conservatively or with surgery. The choice depends on the severity of the condition, its neglect, the level of tissue deterioration and the causes.

It is important to remember that it is not possible to completely cure osteochondrosis, as there are no drugs to help completely restore the discs and vertebrae. The therapeutic effect is focused on inhibiting the process of destruction and increasing the duration and stability of remission.

Chondroprotectors based on chondroitin sulfate or glucosamine are used for symptomatic therapy.

The effectiveness of the therapeutic process with the use of chondroprotectors has been clinically confirmed by long-term tests. If you take these funds for a long time of 3 months, then there is a partial recovery of cartilage and other elements of the connective type - tendon-tendon apparatus, bursa.

methods of treating osteochondrosis

The accumulation of glucosamine and chondroitin in the area of ​​the intervertebral discs leads to the manifestation of analgesic, anti-edematous and anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, there is a real possibility to optimize the dose of NSAIDs, drugs from the glucocorticosteroid group, muscle relaxants. You can count on reducing the drug load on the patient.

The effectiveness of chondroprotectors is determined by the regularity of their intake. Otherwise there will be no result. Ineffectiveness has also been reported in the treatment of grade 3 osteochondrosis, accompanied by significant cartilage destruction.

The following groups of drugs can be used to relieve pain:

  1. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugshelp to eliminate inflammatory disorders in the soft tissues caused by displacement of the spine. NSAIDs are effective in reducing pain, swelling and stiffness.
  2. Glucocorticosteroid agents- blockades are usually used in combination with an anesthetic. They are able to relieve pain, restore the immune mechanism and provide an anti-exudative effect.
  3. Muscle relaxants.They are effective in combating muscle spasms due to nerve entrapment. They help relax skeletal muscles and block polysynaptic spinal reflexes with an antispasmodic effect.
  4. External drugs with a warming effect.Irritation of subcutaneous tissue receptors by activating blood flow is provided by special gels and ointments. These drugs are characterized by analgesic and anti-edematous effects.

It is possible to eliminate the symptoms of the vertebrogenic type, which manifests itself as a result of the localization of the pathology in the cervical or thoracic area, using medical devices to activate blood flow. Nootropics and drugs to improve microcirculation are also prescribed. In some cases, you may need to take antidepressants as well as anticonvulsant medications.

During the treatment of osteochondrosis, they also resort to physiotherapy. Procedures for UHF therapy, magnetic therapy, laser therapy, reflexology, massage, exercise, hirudotherapy, as well as swimming and yoga may be prescribed. If conservative treatment is ineffective, surgery is performed using microdiscectomy, valorization of the puncture disc, laser reconstruction, or implant replacement.