Intervertebral osteochondrosis: features of development, course and treatment

Intervertebral osteochondrosis of any part of the spine has its own characteristics of course and development. The disease affects people of working age, many scientists that occur in the vertebrae and adjacent structures, pathological changes, consider the result of the load on the spinal column associated with upright posture.

Terminology of intervertebral osteochondrosis

Initially, the term osteochondrosis denoted a group of diseases of a predominantly inflammatory nature of the subchondral space of the long bones of the skeleton and the apophyses of the short bones.

Intervertebral osteochondrosis means only a degenerative-dystrophic process in the discs of one or more parts of the spinal column. The primary inflammatory process in this case, in the absence of timely treatment and with the continued influence of the provoking factor, also extends to the bone-ligamentous apparatus adjacent to the disc

The vertebral column of each person consists of 33-35 vertebrae. Disks are located between these vertebrae, performing mainly the function of a shock absorber. That is, the intervertebral discs do not allow adjacent vertebrae to come into contact with each other, soften movement, and reduce the load.

The anatomy of the disc is represented by the central nucleus and the annulus fibrosus – dense tissue that surrounds the entire nucleus in a circle. Under the influence of certain reasons, the structures of the nucleus and connective tissue of the disc are steadily disrupted, this leads to impairment of the amortization function, to a decrease in mobility and to a deterioration in elasticity. A similar condition manifests itself in different symptoms.

Causes of occurrence

As the body ages, intervertebral osteochondrosis is observed to varying degrees in every person. But if the body is constantly influenced by factors negatively affecting the spinal column, then the bone-cartilaginous structures are destroyed quickly and all the unpleasant symptoms of the disease appear at a fairly young age.

Osteochondrosis most often develops under the influence of several reasons at once, and all of them must be taken into account in order to achieve the most optimal result during treatment.

Intervertebral osteochondrosis develops as a result of the negative influence of the following factors:

  • With constant hypodynamia. That is, degenerative changes occur most often with a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Impaired metabolism.
  • Infectious diseases.
  • Being overweight.
  • Improper nutrition – the use of fatty, low fortified foods, various food additives.
  • Injuries and injuries of the vertebral bodies.
  • Diseases of the musculoskeletal system, this group includes curvature of the spine, flat feet.
  • In women, the load on the spinal column increases significantly during pregnancy and with the constant wearing of high heels.
  • Emotional stress.
  • Bad habits – smoking, alcohol abuse.

A hereditary factor has a certain influence on the development of intervertebral osteochondrosis. Under the influence of all these provoking reasons, blood circulation in the intervertebral structures is significantly impaired, metabolic processes slow down, and an insufficient amount of trace elements and vitamins enters the tissues and cells. That is, all conditions are created for the occurrence of inflammatory and degenerative changes in the discs.


  • Intervertebral osteochondrosis of the first degree is characterized by a decrease in the height of the disc, it seems to flatten, which leads to the appearance of microcracks in the annulus fibrosus. At this stage of the development of the disease, the patient may complain of periodic sharp pains with a certain localization, resembling an electric discharge.
  • With the second degree of osteochondrosis, the height of the disc steadily decreases, the jelly-like part of the nucleus dries out, and cracks form in the annulus fibrosus. The pathological process is accompanied by inflammation and irritation of the nerve endings.
  • The third stage is characterized by complete rupture of the annulus fibrosus and protrusion of the central part of the disc. Thus, we are talking about the resulting intervertebral hernia. At this stage of the disease, the vessels and nerves passing next to the altered vertebrae are infringed, which affects the appearance of certain symptoms of the disease.

Localization types

Intervertebral osteochondrosis can affect any part of the spinal column. Widespread osteochondrosis covers more than one anatomical region of the spine. By localization, the local pathological process is divided into:

  • Cervical osteochondrosis. This type of disease is detected most often and can be in fairly young people.
  • Thoracic osteochondrosis is the rarest type of localization of the disease. This is due to the fact that this department is less mobile.
  • Lumbar osteochondrosis.
  • Sacrococcygeal intervertebral osteochondrosis.


The diagnosis of intervertebral osteochondrosis is established by a neurologist. First, the patient is examined, anamnesis is taken, and complaints are clarified. To confirm the diagnosis from instrumental examination methods are prescribed:

  • X-ray of the spine.
  • MRI is used to detect an intervertebral hernia, assess pathological changes in the spinal cord.
  • Discography is prescribed for a complete examination of all damaged disc structures.
  • Electromyography or electroneurography is done to detect damage in the nerve pathways.

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The clinical picture of intervertebral osteochondrosis depends on the degree of inflammatory and degenerative changes in the discs. The first sign is pain, as a rule, it is combined with some movement disorder in the affected segment of the spine.

The pain can be so pronounced that it sharply reduces a person’s working capacity, disrupts his psycho-emotional state and is removed only after the use of drug blockades. The signs of the disease also depend on the type of localization of osteochondrosis.

Symptoms of the disease in the cervical spine

The diagnosis of intervertebral osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is exposed most often. The main symptoms are:

  • Frequent headaches and dizziness.
  • Pain in the upper limbs and chest.
  • Numbness of the cervical spine and limitation of its mobility.
  • Weakness and tenderness in the hands.

Cervical intervertebral osteochondrosis is also often manifested by pressure surges, darkening in the eyes, and severe weakness. This is explained by the fact that the vertebral artery that feeds various parts of the brain passes through the vertebrae of this section. Its compression as a result of a change in the anatomical position of the discs and leads to the occurrence of various pathological changes in health.

Manifestations of the disease in the thoracic region

The thoracic spine is affected by pathological changes less often than others. The main reason for this type of localization of osteochondrosis is the curvature of the spinal column or its injury.

The symptomatology of the changes occurring is somewhat different from the symptoms of the disease in other departments. The pain is not so pronounced, it is usually aching, intermittent and dull. Sometimes there are pains and numbness in the limbs, goose bumps are recorded in the chest area.

Compression of the nerve endings involved in the innervation of internal organs leads to the development of discomfort in the region of the liver, stomach and heart.

Due to the fact that the symptoms of thoracic osteochondrosis are identical and other diseases are often diagnosed incorrectly. It is necessary to distinguish gastritis from osteochondrosis of the thoracic region, angina pectoris, intercostal neuralgia.

Symptoms of the lumbar intervertebral osteochondrosis

Intervertebral osteochondrosis, affecting the lumbar spine, occurs most often. And most of all it comes to light with this type of localization of middle-aged male patients. The main symptoms include:

  • Severe pain in the lumbar region and marked limitation of mobility.
  • Painful sensations are recorded in the buttocks, thighs, legs.
  • Patients complain of unexpected lumbago.

This type of intervertebral osteochondrosis is often manifested by a violation of the sensitivity of the skin on the legs, which is explained by pinched nerve endings. Paresthesias and weakness in the lower extremities occur periodically.

Intervertebral osteochondrosis in the last stages of its development is complicated by a number of secondary disorders. Lack of treatment can lead to complete immobility of the patient.


Treatment of the identified osteochondrosis of the spine is aimed at relieving pain, reducing inflammation, restoring the mobility of the vertebrae, improving blood circulation and metabolic reactions.

It is necessary to use not only medicines, but also physiotherapy, courses of specially selected massage, physiotherapy exercises Medical treatment is selected based on the manifestations of the disease and mainly consists of:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. This group of drugs reduces swelling and inflammation, which affects the relief of pain. Use Nise , Ketanov , Movalis , injections of diclofenac. This group of drugs is selected by a doctor and appointed for a strictly defined time, as it can cause a number of adverse reactions.
  • Painkillers are used for severe pain syndrome. Sometimes an attack of pain can be stopped only with a drug blockade.
  • Complexes of vitamins are necessary to enhance metabolic reactions in nerve tissues. Assign Milgamma , Unigamma .
  • They use drugs that improve blood flow – Trental , Euphyllin .
  • Muscle relaxants are medicines that relieve muscle spasms . Most often in osteochondrosis appoint tizanidine , Mydocalm .
  • After the main treatment, chondroprotectors are selected – drugs that restore altered cartilage tissue. This group of drugs is used for a long time, and in old age courses.

After stopping an acute attack, a course of physiotherapy and massage is selected. These therapeutic techniques are necessary to improve microcirculation, help relieve muscle spasm, and improve nutrition in the intervertebral discs. During the period of recovery, complexes of physiotherapy exercises are required.

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