Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.

neck pain with osteochondrosis

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

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

What it is?

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a progressive polyetiological disease, manifested by degeneration of the intervertebral discs and dystrophy of the ligamentous apparatus of the spine.

Causes of occurrence

The main causes and prerequisites for the appearance of osteochondrosis of the cervical vertebra are:

  1. Curvature of the spine, scoliosis.
  2. Stress, nervous tension adversely affects the general condition of the body, it can cause cervical osteochondrosis.
  3. Postponed infectious diseases often become the main cause.
  4. Incorrect and uncomfortable body position during sleep (for example, an uncomfortable pillow).
  5. Congenital problems or presence of hereditary diseases of the cervical spine.
  6. Bad posture in youth and adolescence.
  7. Overweight, obesity to varying degrees. The extra kilos increase the load on the vertebrae and discs, which leads to degenerative processes.
  8. Back injuries that may have occurred during childhood or adolescence.
  9. Disruption of metabolic processes.
  10. Work related to physical work, which can cause diseases of the spine in its various parts.
  11. Inactive lifestyle, sedentary work, improper performance of any exercise.

For the successful treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, it is first necessary to establish the cause of the appearance, the prerequisites that provoked its development and eliminate them. Until recently, the disease occurred only in people over 45 years of age. Now young people are exposed, the age range is 18 to 25 years.

Characteristics of the cervical spine.

healthy and diseased spine

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

  • In the cervical region, there are important nodes (nodes) of the autonomic nervous system.
  • In the transverse processes of the vertebrae there are holes that form a channel through which the vertebral artery passes, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the brain, cerebellum, auditory organs and also to the vertebral nerve. These are prerequisites for performing frequent arterial and nerve clamps.
  • The cervical spine is the most mobile. It is characterized by performing all kinds of movements in its entirety. These are prerequisites for frequent infractions and subluxations!
  • The intervertebral foramen of the three lower vertebrae is not round, but triangular. These are prerequisites for infringement of the nerve roots by bone growths, which are formed in osteochondrosis.
  • The intervertebral discs are not found between the vertebral bodies over their entire length. In the front, instead of them, there are projecting edges of the vertebrae, which are interconnected by joints.

These are the key characteristics from which we will draw, analyzing the symptoms and complications of osteochondrosis.

Stages of development

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

  1. First grade. The clinical manifestations are minimal, the patient may complain of low intensity pain in the cervical spine, it may be aggravated by turning the head. The physical exam may show slight tension in the neck muscles.
  2. Second grade. the patient is concerned about the pain in the cervical spine, its intensity is much higher, the pain can radiate to the shoulder, to the arm. Painful sensations increase when tilting and turning the head. The patient may notice a decrease in performance, weakness, headache.
  3. Third degree. symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis intensify, pain becomes constant with irradiation to the arm or shoulder. Numbness or weakness develops in the arm muscles as herniated discs form (see symptoms of a spinal herniation of the lumbar spine). Examination reveals limited mobility in cervical spine, cervical spine tenderness.
  4. Fourth grade. there is a complete destruction of the intervertebral disc and its replacement by connective tissue. Dizziness intensifies, tinnitus appears, impaired coordination.


The severity of the symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis depends on the degree of destruction of the vertebral structures. Symptoms are aggravated by bone tissue growth with osteophyte formation, radicular syndrome (radicular pain when a nerve is pinched), intervertebral hernia (protrusion of the disc in the spinal canal).

The first signs of the disease are periodic headache in the occiput, pain in the neck, cracking and clicking in the vertebrae when turning the head, and sometimes a slight tingling sensation 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 can be dull, constant, or sharp with low back pain below the occiput when turning the head. It can hurt the entire cervical region or the projection area of the modified vertebra, as well as the clavicle, shoulder, scapula, and heart area. Head movement restriction 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 along the path of these nerves. Perhaps numbness of the hands or fingers, alteration of the sensation of certain areas of the skin innervated by the pinched nerve.

Based on some characteristic symptoms, it can be assumed which vertebrae are affected:

  • C1 - violation of sensitivity in the occipital region;
  • C2 - pain in the occipital and parietal regions;
  • C3: decreased sensation and pain in the middle of the neck where the spinal nerve was violated, possibly impaired sensitivity of the tongue, impaired speech due to loss of control over the tongue;
  • C4: alteration of sensation and pain in the scapular region of the shoulder, decreased tone of the muscles of the head and neck, possible respiratory disturbances, pain in the liver and heart;
  • C5 - pain and altered sensation on the outer surface of the shoulder;
  • C6 - pain extending from the neck to the scapula, the forearm, the outer surface of the shoulder, the radial surface of the forearm to the thumb of the hand;
  • C7: pain extending from the neck to the scapula, the back of the shoulder, the forearm to the II-IV fingers of the hand, impaired sensation in this area.
  • C8: Pain and sensory disability extend from neck to shoulder, forearm to little finger.

Clicks or crackles during neck movements almost always accompany cervical osteochondrosis, which is seen in all patients. The creaking appears during a sharp turn of the head or when pulling it back.

Syndromes due to cervical osteochondrosis

The symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis are grouped together, called syndromes. Its presence and severity may indicate a pathology in the cervical spine with a specific location.

A group of common syndromes:

  1. Vegetative dystonic syndrome. Subluxation of the first vertebra of the cervical spine with displacement can lead to the development of vegetative-vascular dystonia. VSD is not a definitive diagnosis, as it does not have pronounced symptoms. There may be neurological signs, symptoms of impaired cerebral blood flow, sudden increases in intracranial pressure, muscle spasms. As a result, the patient's complaints are reduced to dizziness, decreased visual acuity, loss of consciousness, headaches, and nausea.
  2. Irritating and thoughtful. Sharp, burning pain in the back of the head and neck, sometimes returning to the chest and shoulder, arising at the time of a change in the position of the head and neck, with sneezing and a sharp turn of the head.
  3. RootAlso called cervical radiculitis, it combines symptoms associated with infringement of the nerve roots of the cervical vertebrae. It is characterized by "chills" in the affected area, tingling in the fingers, forearms, pasty skin, spreading to certain fingers.
  4. Cardiac. Almost the same picture with angina often leads to incorrect diagnosis and treatment. The syndrome appears due to irritation of the phrenic nerve receptors, partially capturing the pericardium and the pectoralis major muscle. Therefore, spasms in the cardiac area are more reflexive, as a response to irritation of the cervical nerves.
  5. Vertebral artery syndrome. It develops directly both with compression of the artery and with irritation of the sympathetic nervous plexus, which is located around it. The pain in this pathology is burning or throbbing in the occipital region with extension to the temples, superciliary arches, crown. It occurs on both one and both sides. Patients often associate exacerbation with the state after sleeping in a non-physiological position, traveling in transport, walking. With severe symptoms, hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and increased blood pressure are possible.

The non-specificity and a large number of various symptoms that accompany this disease complicate the diagnosis and further treatment, since some of them can be a sign of completely different diseases.

What does osteochondrosis of the cervical spine look like


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

Of modern research methods, MRI and CT studies are used, which allow the most accurate verification of the diagnosis. In addition to the listed methods of further investigation, you may need to consult related specialists (cardiologist, ophthalmologist, neurosurgeon), and examination by a neurologist is simply vital. A neurologist is engaged in the treatment of osteochondrosis, therefore, after examining the patient, he, at his discretion, will prescribe the minimum necessary examination.

How to treat osteochondrosis of the cervical spine?

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

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

  • First you need to relieve the pain.
  • Then the swelling will be removed.
  • At this stage, it is necessary to normalize blood circulation.
  • Strengthening the muscular corset.
  • Improving nutrition and tissue regeneration.

The list of drugs and drugs for the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis at home is very extensive:

  1. Anti-inflammatory (steroid). These are hormonal drugs that relieve inflammation and thus eliminate pain. Most often, for osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, tablets and ointments based on the substances hydrocortisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone are used;
  2. Pain relievers (non-steroidal pain relievers). They are usually prescribed in the form of tablets or capsules. It must be remembered that most of these drugs irritate the lining of the digestive tract. Among the modern drugs used to relieve pain in osteochondrosis;
  3. Muscle relaxants are drugs that relax muscle tone. They are used in surgery and orthopedics as pain relief aids. These drugs are administered parenterally and therefore always under the supervision of a doctor. There is an extensive list of contraindications;
  4. Chondroprotectors are preparations that contain substances that replace the components of cartilage: chondroitin, hyaluronic acid. To achieve a lasting positive effect, such drugs must be taken for a long time;
  5. cervical spine pain
  6. Ointments and gels for external use. This is the most accessible group of drugs for use at home. They are divided into painkillers to relieve inflammation, warm up, and relieve pain. Often these funds are advertised. With cervical osteochondrosis, not all ointments are effective, moreover, due to their availability, they are sometimes used unreasonably and without taking into account the peculiarities of pathogenesis.
  7. VitaminsWith osteochondrosis, vitamins are prescribed, which have a beneficial effect on the peripheral nervous system and improve conductivity. Water-soluble vitamins: B1, B6, B12, fat-soluble vitamins: A, C, D, E. In recent years, it has become more common to prescribe combination preparations that contain both painkillers and vitamin components. An effective preparation consists of B vitamins based on pyridoxine and thiamine, as well as an anesthetic.

Only a team of good specialists can choose the most appropriate therapy, which includes a neurologist, physical therapist, masseur, surgeon, and spinal neurologist.


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

  • Exercise # 1 Lying on your stomach, put your hands on the floor, raise your head and torso, your back should be straight. Stay in this position for 1-2 minutes. Slowly lower yourself to the ground. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • Exercise number 2 Lying on your stomach, stretch your arms along your body, turn your head to the left, try to touch the ground with your ear, and then turn your head to the right. Repeat 6-7 times in each direction.
  • Exercise number 3 In a sitting position, while inhaling, lean forward and try to touch your chest with your head, then exhale, bend back and tilt your head back. Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Exercise n. 4 Sitting, place your palms on your forehead, apply pressure with your palms on your forehead and your forehead on your palms. Continue this exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.
  • Exercise number 5 Slowly turn your head first in one direction and then in the other. 10 rotations in each direction. Watch for dizziness. When it appears, the exercise stops.
exercises for cervical osteochondrosis


Massage can be done at home, but with great care so as not to aggravate and harm the patient. The patient should take a lying position, put the forehead on the hands and stretch the chin towards the chest. In this case, the neck muscles must be completely relaxed.

  1. Stroking. It is necessary to start the massage with these movements: stroking the area of the collar in the direction of the lymph to the supraclavicular and axillary nodes. Then flat and comb-shaped strokes are applied.
  2. Lizards. To perform push-ups, the masseuse places a hand on the neck (the index finger and the thumb must be together) and goes down the spine. Push-ups can also be performed with the edge of the palm up to the shoulder joints.
  3. Trituration. It is rubbed to warm up the muscles, relax them, and improve blood flow to the area. The massage should start from the base of the skull, making circular and rectilinear movements with the fingers. You can also perform sawing motions with your palms parallel to your ribs.
  4. Kneading. Kneading should be done on the neck in a circular motion.
  5. Vibration. The massage ends with caresses and vibrations, which is done with the help of shaking and blows.
neck massage

Massage is necessary to strengthen muscle tone and relieve pain. Depending on the stage in which the osteochondrosis is, a massage technique is selected. However, when performing neck massage, specialists use all the classic massage techniques: rubbing, stroking, kneading, etc. In cases where the patient has pain in the neck area only on one side, the massage begins in the healthy part of the neck, gradually moving towards that part of the neck area where strong painful sensations arise.

Manual therapy

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

manual therapy for osteochondrosis of the neck
  1. Relaxing and segmental massage. It is used to warm up the muscles and relieve tension.
  2. Mobilization. Effects intended to restore joint functions. by stretching method.
  3. Handling. A strong push directed at the pathological areas of the patient. The procedure is accompanied by a characteristic crunch (return of the joint to its normal position).

A specialist who practices manual therapy must master these techniques. Otherwise, any mistake can cause injury.

Orthopedic pillows

orthopedic pillow for osteochondrosis

Orthopedic sleeping pillows are an effective preventive measure. 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 a person during sleep and thus ensures a physiologically adequate blood supply to the brain.

When choosing a pillow, the individual anatomical characteristics of a person should be taken into account and correlated with the volume and characteristics of the filling. A correctly selected pillow brings tangible benefits to a patient with osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.


Physiotherapy procedures for cervical osteochondrosis:

physiotherapy for cervical osteochondrosis of the spine
  1. Electrophoresis. It must be used with pain relievers (anesthetics), which are injected under the skin using electronic pulses.
  2. Ultrasound. It has a beneficial effect on the metabolic processes in the tissues of the cervical spine, due to which the swelling is eliminated and the pains disappear.
  3. Magnetotherapy. A safe treatment method, which consists of exposing damaged cells to a low-frequency magnetic field. Gives analgesic effect, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
  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. In combination with taking medicines, the combined treatment helps to eliminate the symptoms of the disease. The procedures are carried out in a hospital or specialist polyclinic offices. Before starting the course, you need to consult a doctor, determine the duration of physiotherapy, types. It is strictly forbidden to pass it during an exacerbation.

Shants Necklace

trench collar for cervical osteochondrosis of the spine

The Shants collar is a soft and comfortable device that fastens with velcro at the back and is used for cervical osteochondrosis. But not for treatment, but for temporary relaxation and relief of fatigue. It cannot be used without taking it off, otherwise the neck muscles will stop working and will soon atrophy. If the Shants collar is selected correctly, the patient feels comfortable and protected.

The collar is selected 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 the characteristics of the product quite well, which means that they can help in each specific case.

Home remedies

If the pain of osteochondrosis of the spine becomes unbearable and regular, you will accept anything to stop it, and here the traditional complex treatment will be successfully supplemented by alternative methods.

  • insist on celery root (5 grams per 1 liter of boiling water) for 4 hours, drink a tablespoon before each meal;
  • honey compress, for which we take 2 tsp. honey and 1 mummy pill. We heat the components in a water bath, spread them on a cloth and apply them to the cervical region, that is, the neck, at night;
  • in case of acute pain, horseradish cultivation in the field helps me. I just wash its sheet, pour it with boiling water, cool it a little, apply it to the neck and wrap it with a thin scarf for the night; in the morning you can already live and work;
  • we insist on chamomile flowers in vegetable oil for two days, preheating to a boil (for 500 ml of oil, 30 grams of a plant are needed), rub into sore areas;
  • The honey-potato compress also helps, for this, the root crop should be grated and mixed with honey in the same amount, applied to a large neck at night, used regularly, at least once a week.


As usual, proper prophylaxis will help prevent osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, but of course all physical exercises should be used regularly, otherwise there will not be much benefit from "periodic" exercises.

It remains to remember simple rules:

  • eat more foods high in calcium and magnesium. These are fish, peas, legumes, nuts, cheese, herbs, but it is better to refrain from sugar, flour, smoked, spicy foods.
  • Playing sports regularly, especially swimming, water aerobics, gymnastics for elongation and flexibility of the vertebrae is also suitable for preventing osteochondrosis, which can be practiced at home.
  • during sedentary work, at least a couple of times a day, perform a special set of exercises, an example of which is in the video.
  • Choose a good orthopedic mattress and pillow that is ideal for your neck, resting your head in a dream in the correct anatomical position (yes, your favorite huge down pillows won't go away with spinal problems! ).

If he already has such a diagnosis, the patient must preserve his spine, namely:

  1. Be very careful with lifting and carrying weights, it is better to go to the store twice than to throw heavy bags with both hands, which incredibly tense the neck and shoulder girdle;
  2. Do not get too cold, avoid drafts and cold air flow from the air conditioner (some people like to cool off on a hot day, standing with their back to the fan);
  3. Leaning the body forward, remember osteochondrosis;
  4. Avoid local overheating of the muscles, which can happen to those who like an excessively hot bath;
  5. Do not forget to periodically detach from the monitor, change the position of the body, do not sit for hours or even days;
  6. Rest your neck, for which you need to buy a Shants necklace;
  7. If possible, if the state of the cardiovascular system allows, take a steam bath.

In conclusion, I would like to say that a child who is threatened with osteochondrosis (the father and mother already have it) and an adult who acquired the disease throughout life are simply obliged to take preventive measures so as not to become disabled. and not being on the operating table, because this operation is quite difficult and requires long-term rehabilitation. Also, it is not always possible, because there are inoperable cases, so it is better to protect health from an early age, as long as the discs are intact and unnecessary growths do not squeeze the blood vessels.