What is osteochondrosis?

Osteochondrosis of the spine, a sign of which is back pain

Spinal osteochondrosis is a disease that affects the cartilaginous structures that make up the intervertebral discs in the human body. These discs ensure mobility of the spine, giving us the opportunity to move and be flexible.

Osteochondrosis disrupts the structure of such discs, their structure changes. Since the process of destruction of these discs is irreversible, it is impossible to cure the disease. But with proper treatment, you can stop the development of the disease, slow it down and gain time during which the mobility of the spine will be preserved.

If the disease is not stopped in time, then after the destruction of the intervertebral discs, the destruction of the vertebrae themselves begins.

Important!Ignoring osteochondrosis inevitably leads to complications, a forced decrease in physical activity, a deterioration in the quality of life, and sometimes even disability.

Among the complications of osteochondrosis, one of the most common is osteophyte. This is the name for bone growths that appear along the edges of the vertebra. The appearance of such a growth can be provoked by prolonged stress on the spine or an unstable spinal motion segment.

Causes and symptoms of osteochondrosis

Experts cite improper distribution of the load on the spine as the main reason provoking the development of osteochondrosis.

However, the process can also be triggered by hypothermia of a particular part of the body or the whole organism, too much physical stress on the back in general and the spine in particular, as well as injury to the spine (impacts to the spine, sharp turns, jolts and any physical impact that can cause displacementvertebrae).

Pain and aches in the neck are symptoms of spinal osteochondrosis

There are a huge number of minor causes of osteochondrosis. Typically, a person who has been given such a diagnosis can identify 7-10 reasons from this list that triggered the development of the disease in his particular case.

So, below are listed minor but important reasons that provoke the destruction of intervertebral discs. This is something you should avoid so as not to find out what osteochondrosis is:

  • stooping and poor posture (they provoke curvature of the spine)
  • weak back muscles (because of this, the entire load falls on the spinal column)
  • constantly being in an uncomfortable position
  • excessive physical activity associated with lifting and carrying heavy objects, strength sports
  • spinal injuries
  • lack of nutrition or excess nutrition, which provokes metabolic disorders
  • excess weight
  • constant sitting
  • stress
  • hormonal disorders
  • bad heredity
  • aging

As you can see, there are quite a few reasons. The symptoms of this disease are also varied. Osteochondrosis manifests itself differently in different people, but the following symptoms are generally observed during osteochondrosis:

  • severe back pain
  • numbness in the arms or legs (sometimes both at the same time)
  • headaches turning into migraines
  • pain and aches in the neck and limbs
  • dizziness, colored spots before the eyes, sometimes loss of consciousness
  • cold hands and feet
  • characteristic pain in the chest (as with intercostal neuralgia) and the heart area
  • painful movements

The occurrence of osteochondrosis

Interesting: some doctors believe that osteochondrosis is not a pathology, but a natural change in the human body.

The occurrence of osteochondrosis in a woman due to sedentary work

One way or another, it is difficult to find a long-liver who has never suffered from back pain in his life. According to various sources, osteochondrosis affects from 40 to 80% of all people on earth.

Typically, a person notices the first signs of osteochondrosis in the period from 35 to 50 years. This has a lot to do with his lifestyle.

And if in some people, due to poor heredity, the first symptoms appear in adolescence, then for the majority, symptoms appearing after 50 are considered the norm.

This is due to the fact that by the age of 45 the human body stops accumulating water in the intervertebral discs and the level of collagen necessary for joint health begins to inevitably decline.

In some people, the intervertebral discs can even be squeezed out. This causes pain and is called sciatica.

Stages of osteochondrosis

There are 4 main stages of development of osteochondrosis.

  1. It all starts with the fact that the nucleus pulposus undergoes dehydration. The fibrous ring becomes covered with cracks due to the fact that the height of the intervertebral disc decreases. At this stage, the pathology is difficult to notice, since all changes occur in the intervertebral disc. No back or neck pain yet.
  2. As the height of the intervertebral disc decreases, sagging of the muscles and ligaments occurs. This is due to the convergence of the attachment points of muscles and ligaments. Initially, they are attached to two adjacent vertebrae, but if the distance between these vertebrae decreases, this cannot but affect the muscle tissue.
  3. The third stage is characterized by the fact that changes become pronounced. Prolapses occur, as well as such a phenomenon as disc protrusion. Protrusion precedes the occurrence of intervertebral disc herniation. As a rule, at this stage the development of the disease can be stopped, becausethe fibrous ring is still intact and can still be tried to be restored. But due to the fact that protrusion does not cause pain, few people seek help from a doctor at this stage.
  4. At the last stage, the fibrous ring breaks. To counter the excessive mobility of the vertebrae at the site of disc destruction, the body mobilizes and osteophytes appear on the vertebra.


Before starting treatment for osteochondrosis, it is necessary to conduct a diagnosis and identify at what stage the disease is currently developing.

Important!Diagnosis of osteochondrosis is impossible without first collecting an anamnesis.

If you notice any symptoms of osteochondrosis, listen carefully to your body.

Based on an X-ray examination, the doctor will be able to diagnose osteochondrosis.

The more you tell the doctor about your feelings, the faster and more accurately he will be able to make a diagnosis and begin correct treatment. Don’t think that there will be too much information: ask your relatives about whether they have had manifestations of this disease. A family history will help to more accurately determine the cause of osteochondrosis.

After the doctor finishes collecting your medical history and concludes from your complaints that it is most likely osteochondrosis, he will suggest that you undergo an x-ray examination.

If for some reason this type of examination is not suitable for you, your doctor may also suggest an MRI or CT scan. However, these examinations are not mandatory under the compulsory medical insurance program, so you will have to pay for them yourself. Consider their high cost.

As a last resort, myelography is used to diagnose osteochondrosis. This is a painful and dangerous procedure where the doctor injects a dye directly into the spinal canal.

How is osteochondrosis treated?

Currently, the treatment of osteochondrosis is practiced in many clinics. Some procedures give a positive effect, while others only relieve pain. If you decide on one of the treatment methods, before starting treatment for osteochondrosis, discuss this method with your doctor.

The most popular procedures now are:

  • magnetic puncture effect
  • pharmacopuncture effect
  • reflexology with needles
  • vacuum effect
  • electrical stimulation
  • manual therapy

Many of these procedures are not a treatment for osteochondrosis, but rather a treatment for some of the symptoms of osteochondrosis. That is why the doctor must coordinate the procedures. This is especially true for those patients who have been diagnosed with cervical osteochondrosis.

The fact is that osteochondrosis that has developed in the cervical spine is characterized by symptoms such as numbness of the arms and legs. And this is no coincidence. The fact is that it is in the neck area that a lot of nerve endings are concentrated. And incorrectly selected treatment in this case can turn your cervical osteochondrosis into a full-fledged disability.

Surgical treatment

Spinal surgery is such a serious undertaking that it is prescribed with great caution and only if osteochondrosis is complicated by a herniated disc. Such operations are not urgent; they are always performed only as planned. Before the operation, you will need to undergo a large number of examinations and take many tests.

Such operations are prescribed only if the doctor sees no other way out for treatment and realizes that without surgery the person’s quality of life will deteriorate significantly. Before surgery, doctors will try to provide pain relief and supportive care.


Drugs to treat this condition are mainly designed to reduce pain and increase collagen levels in the body.

Treatment of osteochondrosis is not complete without prescribing various drugs.

However, it is worth remembering that collagen and other nutrients for cartilage are absorbed not only by the spine, but by the entire body. So the effectiveness of such drugs is not very high.

The ointments that doctors recommend using for osteochondrosis are also intended mainly to relieve pain during an exacerbation.

Unfortunately, if you have osteochondrosis, you will most likely need maintenance therapy for the rest of your life. That is, from time to time your back will hurt, you will not be able to put too much strain on yourself physically, especially you will have to avoid lifting heavy objects, putting stress on your back and spinal column.

Exacerbation of osteochondrosis

Exacerbations of this disease can occur from high physical exertion on the back muscles. Also, osteochondrosis can worsen due to colds or infections, due to hypothermia, stress, pregnancy, and hormonal changes. Gaining weight will also cause back pain.


As a preventive measure, doctors offer many patients physical exercises designed specifically for those people who suffer from this disease.

In order to prevent osteochondrosis, physical therapy should be performed

If your doctor has prescribed you a course of exercise therapy, you need to check with him exactly what exercises are allowed for you. Exercises will help you maintain your muscle corset in tone, and this will reduce the load on the spinal column. In addition, these exercises will greatly help those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Also, for preventive purposes, you may be prescribed a massage. Depending on which part of the spine you have developed osteochondrosis, the massage therapist will work on this area. This will not only relieve pain, but also help relax the muscles. In combination with exercise therapy, massage brings good results.

Try to avoid stress on the spine, do not lift heavy objects. If possible, dress warmly, because. . . any hypothermia can cause exacerbation of osteochondrosis.

Living a full life with this disease is quite possible, do not forget to take care of your body and take care of yourself.