How to cure cervical osteochondrosis? This question is asked by many patients and doctors around the world. Degenerative diseases of the musculoskeletal system are very difficult to treat and lead to a wide variety of complications. In these conditions, the issue of effective therapy is extremely relevant.
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine
Before you find out whether cervical osteochondrosis can be cured, it is worth understanding the very essence of this disease. Osteochondrosis is a degenerative process that begins in the intervertebral discs - the cartilage layers between every two adjacent vertebrae.
Imagine an intervertebral disc. It consists of an inner soft part - the nucleus pulposus and an outer shell - the fibrous capsule. It is this that gives the soft part a certain shape so that the core fulfills its shock-absorbing function.
In osteochondrosis, the primary degenerative process occurs precisely in the fibrous capsule:
- Under the influence of damaging factors, a defect is formed.
- The soft core of the disc penetrates through it - a protrusion of the spinal discs is formed.
- As the process progresses, part of the nucleus falls out - a herniated disc is formed.
All these processes involve surrounding tissues in inflammation. First, a reflex pain syndrome develops, and then a compression syndrome - the nerve roots are compressed by the hernia.
This process can occur in any part of the spinal column. One of the most common locations is the neck. Is it possible to cure osteochondrosis of the cervical spine?
Understanding the essence of the disease and the mechanism of its development, we can assume which methods can completely and permanently cure the patient of this disease.
There are several different effects that we can expect from any method of therapy: symptomatic (eliminates the manifestations of the disease), pathogenetic (interrupts the pathological mechanism of development), etiological (directly affects the cause of development).
In osteochondrosis, the cause is a wide variety of risk factors for the disease. It is impossible to influence them if the disease already exists. However, preventive measures are aimed specifically at eliminating the causes.
Many treatment methods have a possible pathogenetic effect, and this is what we will try to find in each of the methods proposed by modern medicine.
The symptomatic effect is also very important. The full course of therapy prescribed by the attending physician should always include an impact on the manifestations of the disease, because during therapy it is necessary to alleviate the patient’s health condition.
Among the variety of treatment methods, we will try to understand the following treatment options:
- Exposure to drugs.
- Orthopedic products.
- Physiotherapy, massage, manual therapy.
- Spine operations.
- Radiofrequency ablation.
A few words will need to be said about prevention, which allows you to avoid the appearance of the disease altogether.
Not all medications that a doctor prescribes for osteochondrosis help get rid of it. Many drugs perform a purely symptomatic function:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – eliminate inflammation.
- Muscle relaxants – prevent reflex muscle spasms.
- Local analgesics – relieve pain.
- Vascular agents - used for cervical osteochondrosis in combination with vertebral artery syndrome.
- Glucocorticosteroids - these hormonal drugs have a pronounced anti-inflammatory effect.
Still, several drugs have a pathogenetic effect. First of all, chondroprotectors should be mentioned. These drugs are used only in the first stages of osteochondrosis, when there is no disc herniation yet. They slow down the process of degeneration and prevent the formation of protrusions. It must be taken for a long time and constantly, but the therapeutic effect will be quite significant.
B vitamins - these drugs do not affect the degeneration process itself and do not help cure osteochondrosis. However, it is very important to use them in the presence of reflex or compression syndromes. Vitamins support metabolism in nerve tissue and prevent the death of nerves.
Thus, among all medications, only timely prescribed chondroprotectors help get rid of cervical osteochondrosis.
The next treatment method, which is very popular in modern medicine, is the use of orthopedic devices. The use of corsets, bandages, and orthoses is widespread.
For cervical osteochondrosis, collars are most often used, but there are other types of orthopedic devices. These products effectively eliminate pain, which is beyond doubt. However, are they able to influence the course of the disease?
For the treatment of osteochondrosis, the following features of this type of therapy are important:
- Corsets and collars have a compression effect - they put pressure on a certain part of the spine. This prevents the appearance of protrusions and hernias, that is, the formation of complications.
- Orthopedic devices always separate the vertebrae from each other in a vertical plane. This helps relieve pressure from the nerve roots and the intervertebral discs themselves.
- If there is existing protrusion or degenerative changes, the corset will not help get rid of them. However, when used regularly, the remedy helps not to remember the manifestations of the disease.
The listed properties should be taken into account not only by the doctor, but also by the patient, so as not to expect too much from the use of bandages.
Therapeutic exercises are one of the most underestimated methods of treating orthopedic diseases by patients. It is regular exercises and activities that help get rid of most manifestations of any disease.
Osteochondrosis is no exception. In case of pathology of the cervical spine, physical activity has the following healing properties:
- Exercises help eliminate pain, reflex muscle spasms, and compression effects on the vertebral artery and other vessels. This means that with regular exercise, you can reduce the need for symptomatic therapy.
- Exercises help to form the muscular corset of the cervical spine. Trained muscles hold internal structures, including bones and cartilage, and prevent protrusion from forming.
- Degenerative changes in the disc develop under the influence of excessive, incorrectly applied load or its deficiency. Proper exercises prevent the degenerative process and activate blood flow in the area of the intervertebral discs.
Even knowing about such beneficial effects of exercise, many patients are lazy to do the exercises. Start training with a specialist, and then implement it into your daily routine. Soon you will not be able to imagine your day without exercise and a set of useful exercises.
Physiotherapy and massage
Quite controversial methods of treatment are physiotherapy and massage. These methods certainly help relieve some of the symptoms of the disease. Neck massage helps eliminate muscle spasms, and physiotherapy relieves inflammation, pain, and prevents the appearance of compression syndrome.
But can these methods cure cervical osteochondrosis? The pathogenetic effect is achieved only as part of complex treatment. Physiotherapy and massage should be used together with physical therapy and the use of medications. The effects of different treatment methods potentiate each other:
- Electro- and phonophoresis help drugs reach the spine.
- Manual therapy relaxes muscles after prolonged exercise.
- Acupuncture and electromyostimulation in combination with exercise therapy create a strong muscle corset and eliminate pain.
Examples of the combined effect of various methods of therapy can be given further.
We should also not forget that all methods of physiotherapy and massage increase local blood flow, and therefore metabolism in damaged tissues. As a result, degenerative processes slow down or stop altogether.
In some cases, intervertebral disc pathology can only be eliminated through surgery. This method also cannot be considered an etiological treatment - the surgeon does not act on the cause of the disease, but removes its consequences. However, in the presence of local osteochondrosis, surgery can help permanently get rid of its symptoms.
There are various methods of surgical intervention, but most of them come down to two options:
- Disc plastic surgery with palliative measures. During the operation, all complications of the disease are also eliminated.
- Prosthetics of intervertebral cartilage or replacement of the entire vertebral motion segment with a prosthesis.
Regardless of the choice of treatment method, relapses of cervical osteochondrosis are possible. The disease can affect any other adjacent intervertebral disc. To prevent this from happening, preventive measures are taken.
You should also remember the need for postoperative rehabilitation. Many of the above methods of therapy help restore performance. It is convenient to combine them during sanatorium treatment.
A very effective and promising treatment method is radiofrequency ablation. Not so long ago, this method was not known at all, but now ablation is carried out in many large cities.
The essence of the procedure is as follows:
- Through a needle puncture, a special electrode is applied to the damaged intervertebral disc.
- The disc is heat treated using electricity.
- There is destruction of the nerves and the disc tissue itself in the area of impact.
- After ablation, the disc remains between the vertebrae. It is not capable of performing a shock-absorbing function, but does not cause pathological symptoms.
The advantages of the method are the absence of the need for general anesthesia, the short duration of the procedure, and quick recovery. The technique can be used as the first stage of treatment if the symptoms have not been completely relieved.
In most cases, ablation helps eliminate all symptoms of osteochondrosis, but the patient is not immune from damage to other intervertebral discs by this disease.
From the above we can conclude that all modern treatment methods only help to prevent the progression of cervical osteochondrosis or eliminate its manifestations only on a specific disc. There is a high probability of recurrence of the disease and its spread to adjacent cartilaginous layers.
This process cannot be eliminated, but it can be prevented. For this purpose, numerous methods are used to prevent osteochondrosis.
If the disease has just begun to bother you, has occurred in many relatives, or you have been treated for osteochondrosis, follow these tips:
- Normalize physical activity on the spinal column and neck in particular. Perform preventive exercises, go swimming, skiing. Do not allow your neck to remain stationary for long periods of time.
- Eat right. A balanced diet without harmful foods, which contains sufficient amounts of protein and calcium, will help prevent the disease.
- Eliminate bad habits that can cause a degenerative process. First of all, this is smoking and frequent drinking of alcohol.
- When sleeping, use orthopedic aids and the right mattresses to avoid additional stress on the cervical spine.
- If you have spinal diseases or injuries, be sure to use orthopedic products.
Simple preventive measures help support the cervical spine and prevent the development of osteochondrosis.