Osteochondrosis is a disease in which premature ageing and destruction of intervertebral discs and then vertebrae occurs.
According to statistics, pathology occurs in 9 out of 10 people aged 50 years and older. Previously, osteochondrosis was associated with older age. Today, the disease “younger”, they may suffer people aged 20 – 30 years and even younger.
The human spine consists of an average of 33 vertebrae: 7 cervical, 12 thoracics, five lumbar, five sacral, 3 – 5 coccygeal. All the vertebrae, except sacral and coccygeal, are separated by intervertebral discs.
They provide a spring function – cushioning during walking, running, jumping. In the centre of each disc there is an elastic gelatinous nucleus, and on the periphery, it is surrounded by a denser fibrous ring.
Causes of osteochondrosis
Osteochondrosis is the result of a combination of several reasons. The main factors that lead to the development of the disease:
Age changes in the spine.
Injuries of the spinal column.
Excessive strain on the spine.
Excess body weight.
Violation of blood flow in the vertebrae.
Disorders of posture, scoliosis.
Long work in a monotonous uncomfortable pose.
With osteochondrosis, the intervertebral disc is gradually destroyed, and its height decreases. The distance between the vertebrae is shortened, as a result of which the roots of the spinal cord are compressed.
As a result of compression and circulatory disorders, an inflammatory process develops. Later, changes begin to occur in the vertebrae. They deform, they form bone outgrowths – osteophytes.
Symptoms of osteochondrosis
Manifestations of osteochondrosis depend on which part of the spinal column is affected. Cervical osteochondrosis manifests itself in the form of pains that can occur in the neck, in the suboccipital region, in the shoulder, chest.
Neck muscles become strained. The head assumes a specific position, in which the pain is not so intense. The amount of movement in the neck is limited.
With cervical osteochondrosis, brachyopathy periarteritis may develop inflammation of the tissues surrounding the shoulder joint. It gives aching pain in the shoulder.
Syndrome of the vertebral artery – a violation of blood circulation in the arteries, which pass in the neck and carry blood to the brain.
There is a pain in the nape, which usually begins in the morning, spreads to the back of the neck, crown.
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine is manifest in the form of pain between the scapulae. The patient feels that his chest is squeeze from the outside.
Sometimes the illness is shrouded in nature; it appears as if it were around the whole thorax. Often there is a pain in the chest, in the heart, under the ribs.
The main sign of lumbar osteochondrosis is the pain in the lower back, giving in the leg. Sometimes pain can occur only in the lower end or just in the leg. Leg muscles on the affected leg become weaker; the patient notes that he “drags his leg.” Gradually, the musculature decreases in size, its atrophy occurs.
The sensitivity of the skin is disturbed. She becomes pale, dry. The patient takes a forced posture: his lower back flexes in a position where the pain is less disturbing.
What can you do?
Usually, the first sign of osteochondrosis occurs after hypothermia, intense physical exertion, prolonged work in an uncomfortable position, sleep on an inconvenient pillow.
If there is no treatment, then the signs of osteochondrosis grow with time, the condition worsens, work capacity decreases. It is necessary as soon as possible to see a doctor and begin therapy.
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Osteochondrosis cannot achieve full recovery. But you can slow down the process and significantly improve the condition.
What can the doctor do?
A neurologist, a neurosurgeon, perform the treatment of osteochondrosis. During exacerbations, treatment is carried out in a hospital. Assign bed rest, anti-inflammatory and analgesics, vitamins, drugs to improve blood flow in small vessels. Dry heat applies to the area of the affected spine.
Between the exacerbations, treatment is provided, including massage, physiotherapy exercises, physiotherapy procedures.
Sometimes stretching is performed: the patient is placed on a bed with a raised head end. With cervical osteochondrosis, a unique cap is put on the head, to which weights of a specific weight are suspended. In chest osteochondrosis, weights are used, delayed on the rings for axillary cavities.
If the disease is accompanied by a substantial compression of the spinal roots and a violation of the functions, the doctor decides on surgical treatment. During the operation, pathologically altered intervertebral disks are removed, vertebrae are fixed with various structures.