Osteochondrosis is included in the category of common disorders. In 75% of cases, it is he who causes unpleasant back pain. Today, every second person after twenty years has manifestations of pathology. With age, the threat of the appearance of the disease increases. If you do not immediately start treatment, osteochondrosis can provoke negative health consequences.
What is spinal osteochondrosis
This process affects the articular cartilage and nearby bones. Initially, osteochondrosis affects only the discs that hold the vertebrae together. Then the dystrophic process affects the ligaments and vertebrae, violates the integrity of the joints.
The insidiousness of pathology is that the cartilage of the discs cannot be regenerated. Therefore, the area of the spine affected by the disease will be inevitably destroyed. When an ailment appears, you can stop its development, but it cannot be completely eliminated.
This pathology is not associated with inflammation – it is based on tissue malnutrition and degeneration of their structure. In the absence of stress, tissues lose strength, since they do not receive the required amount of nutrients.
The development of the disease leads to the fact that the gelatinous nucleus dries up and partially loses its shock-absorbing characteristics. The fibrous ring becomes thinner, microcracks form on it.
As a result, there is a bulge called disc protrusion . As the disease progresses, a rupture of the ring may occur, and then an intervertebral hernia is diagnosed.
This area loses stability, osteophytes can form on it, the integrity of ligaments and joints is disrupted. To compensate for disc deformation, bone and fibrous tissue grows. In this state, the spinal column becomes less mobile.
Usually the disease has periods of remission, which are then followed by relapses.
Degrees and stages
A number of degrees of the disease are distinguished, each of which has the following features:
- 1 degree. Due to inaccurate movement, the disc breaks. This condition can also be provoked by stress. Often there are severe pains and a sensation resembling an electrical discharge.
- 2nd degree. Spinal stability is lost and protrusions develop . Pains may be present that increase with inaccurate movements. This form of the disease is characterized by numbness in the fingers, headaches, and temporary discomfort in the sacrum.
- 3 degree. This condition has manifestations of a hernia, headaches, discomfort in the area of the damaged nerve. Also, hands and feet often go numb, vision and hearing deteriorate, problems appear in the functioning of many organs.
- 4 degree . At this stage, the hernia symptoms disappear, and the manifestations of the disease decrease. The spine loses stability, and this condition is characterized by sliding or twisting of the vertebrae. Vertebrae can grow, which provokes compression of the nerves, as a result of which the spinal canal atrophies and the spinal cord is compressed. The fourth degree is distinguished by the consequences that can occur after the removal of a hernia – these include paresis, inflammation, etc.
It is also customary to distinguish a number of stages.
- So, the first stage is, in fact, a consequence of moisture deficit and loss of elastic properties. The disease is characterized by the displacement of the nucleus inside the disc, which leads to a violation of the shape of the annulus fibrosus. However, the process itself remains within the intervertebral disc, without going beyond it.
- The second is characterized by the formation of cracks in the ring. As the height of the flattened disc decreases, there is a loss of spinal stability.
- The third stage is characterized by the occurrence of ruptures at the site of cracks and the onset of inflammation. Part of the liquid core seeps through the microcracks. At the site of the rupture, nerves or blood vessels are often compressed.
- The fourth stage is accompanied by degenerative processes. The vertebral sections do not provide the necessary resistance, therefore the adjacent vertebral bodies come closer. Complications may also appear. This can be the development of spondyloarthrosis and spondylosis. At this stage, a flattening of the vertebra is noted – this occurs to eliminate the load from the disc. Sometimes fibrous tissue is replaced by bone. This stage is marked by a temporary decrease in pain. Later, however, the discomfort increases due to compression of the nerves and narrowing of the spinal canal.
Causes of the disease
This disease can be found in both the elderly and young people. Typically, signs of osteochondrosis appear at about thirty-five years. The development and relapses of the disease cause overload, back injury, vibration. As the body ages, more and more symptoms appear. The exact causes of the disease have not yet been established.
The most popular is the opinion that the process is a consequence of an incorrect distribution of the load on the spine due to weakness of muscles and ligaments. This theory is also proved by popular methods of therapy, which are based on training the muscular apparatus and ligaments.
Factors that can provoke an abnormal process in the spine include:
- violation of posture;
- excess weight;
- flat feet;
- metabolic disorders;
- poor physical fitness;
- heavy loads;
- hormonal imbalance;
- poor nutrition;
- poor environmental situation;
- systematic vibration influence;
- age-related changes;
- passive lifestyle;
- spine abnormalities.
Even if a person leads a normal life, he has a threat of osteochondrosis due to a deficiency of the necessary substances. In modern society, this problem is considered one of the key ones. The condition is aggravated due to an inactive lifestyle.
Types and symptoms
Depending on the area of the lesion, there is cervical, thoracic or lumbar osteochondrosis. If several departments are involved in the pathological process at once, we can talk about a common form.
Since the lower back usually has the greatest load, it is lumbar osteochondrosis that predominates among all cases of the disease – its prevalence is about 50%.
In second place is the cervical region. This form of osteochondrosis is diagnosed in a quarter of cases. This disease is usually the result of prolonged sitting at the computer or repetitive work.
Thoracic osteochondrosis is extremely rare and is usually associated with limited movement.
Common signs of the disease
Pathology has different signs that directly depend on the place of localization of the process:
- Spine pain. Sometimes osteochondrosis provokes mild aching or pulling pains. Also, the disease can cause acute, unbearable pain – it is difficult to eliminate them with non-narcotic analgesics.
- Deterioration of vision or hearing.
- Headaches. The illness often causes a feeling of weakness, dizziness, and increased fatigue.
- Loss of sensitivity. This symptom usually presents with numbness in the arms or legs.
- Problems in the functioning of the pelvic organs and sexual dysfunctions.
- Loss of mobility in the problem area.
- Problems with the organs that the spinal cord is responsible for.
- Pain in the arms and legs.
- Weakening of muscles.
How cervical osteochondrosis manifests itself:
- systematic headaches;
- hearing impairment;
- pressure surges;
- change of voice;
- decreased vision;
- tooth decay.
- high fatigue of the back muscle tissue;
- pain on palpation;
- back and chest pain;
- problems with different organs.
Manifestations of osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine:
- back pain;
- numbness of the legs;
- decrease in skin temperature;
- violation of urination;
- muscle tension;
- stool problems;
- varicose veins;
- loss of activity.
Osteochondrosis often provokes complications, so this disease cannot be ignored. The consequences of the disease include:
- Lumbago – severe back pain (more on this here).
- Intervertebral hernia.
- Protrusion .
- Migraine attacks.
- Sciatica is a pathology of the sciatic nerve that causes pain in the legs and buttocks.
- Narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Vegeto-vascular dystonia.
- Schmorl’s hernia is a protrusion of a disc into the spinal cavity.
The most dangerous complication of osteochondrosis is the compression of the arteries that supply the brain. These stems supply the brain with blood. Due to nutritional deficiencies, more serious pathologies can develop.
Diagnosis is based on medical history and physical examination. It also requires an assessment of the neurological status. Additional examinations include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging;
- ultrasound dopplerography;
- spondylography ;
- CT scan.
Thanks to the above studies, it is possible to determine the level of violations, clarify the diagnosis, and reveal hidden processes. This allows you to choose an effective treatment and achieve good results.
At an early stage, conservative therapy is the best option. The doctor prescribes medication. Remedial gymnastics can also be used. Manual therapy and reflexology are very useful.
Among the medicines, non-narcotic analgesics and sedatives are considered the most effective. You also need to drink drugs with vitamins of group B. Usually, such treatment is used during a relapse of the disease to eliminate pain and inflammation.
Reflexology consists in the use of methods such as paraffin applications, laser therapy, acupuncture, electrical stimulation, ultrasound. No less useful mud baths and iodine therapy .
Physiotherapy is aimed at strengthening the muscular system and releasing nerve endings. In difficult cases, it is impossible to do without surgical intervention. If conservative treatment is ineffective, the hernia should be removed. This can be achieved using the classical or microsurgical method.
Osteochondrosis is a dangerous ailment that provokes pain and leads to loss of motor activity.
To stop the development of complications, at the slightest discomfort in the spine area, you should consult a doctor. Only a specialist will be able to make the correct diagnosis and choose a therapy.