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 provide mobility in the spine, giving us the opportunity to move and be flexible.

Osteochondrosis destroys 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, 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 of the bony growths that appear along the edges of the vertebra. The appearance of such growth can be caused 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 that provokes the development of osteochondrosis.

However, the process can also be triggered by hypothermia of a certain part of the body or the entire organism, by excessive physical stress on the back in general and on the spine in particular, as well as by injuries to the spine (blows to the spine, sharp turns, jolts and any physical impact that may cause displacement of the vertebrae).

Neck pain and pain are symptoms of spinal osteochondrosis

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

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

  • stooped and incorrect posture (cause curvature of the spine)
  • weak back muscles (because of this, the entire load falls on the spine)
  • constantly finding yourself 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 causes metabolic disorders
  • excess weight
  • constant sitting
  • fatigue
  • hormonal disorders
  • bad inheritance
  • aging

As you can see, there are several 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 that turn 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 in intercostal neuralgia) and in 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 appearance 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 40 to 80% of all people on earth.

Usually, a person notices the first signs of osteochondrosis in the period between 35 and 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 from the age of 45 the human body stops accumulating water in the intervertebral discs and the level of collagen necessary for joint health inevitably begins to decrease.

In some people, the intervertebral discs can even be crushed. 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. When the height of the intervertebral disc decreases, failure 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 the changes become pronounced. Prolapses and phenomena such as disc protrusion occur. The protrusion precedes the occurrence of intervertebral disc herniation. As a rule, at this stage the development of the disease can be stopped, because the fibrous ring is still intact and attempts can still be made to restore it. But since the protrusion does not cause pain, few people at this stage seek help from a doctor.
  4. In the last phase the fibrous ring breaks. To counteract 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!The diagnosis of osteochondrosis is impossible without first taking a medical history.

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

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

If for some reason this type of test isn't right for you, your doctor may also suggest an MRI or CT scan. However, these tests 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 in which the doctor injects a dye directly into the spinal canal.

How is osteochondrosis treated?

Currently, 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 drilling effect
  • pharmacopuncture effect
  • foot reflexology with needles
  • void 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. This 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 in the arms and legs. And this is not a coincidence. The fact is that it is in the neck area that many nerve endings are concentrated. And incorrectly selected treatment in this case can turn cervical osteochondrosis into a real 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. These operations are not urgent; they are always performed only as expected. Before the operation, you will have to undergo a large number of examinations and take numerous 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 significantly worsen. Before surgery, doctors will try to provide pain relief and supportive care.


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

Treatment of osteochondrosis is not complete without the prescription of various drugs.

However, it is worth remembering that collagen and other cartilage nutrients 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 also have the main purpose of relieving pain during a flare-up.

Unfortunately, if you suffer from osteochondrosis, you will most likely need maintenance therapy for the rest of your life. That is, your back will hurt from time to time, you will not be able to overexert yourself physically, above all you will have to avoid lifting heavy objects, putting stress on your back and spine.

Exacerbation of osteochondrosis

Exacerbations of this disease can occur due to intense physical strain on the back muscles. Also, osteochondrosis can worsen due to colds or infections, due to hypothermia, stress, pregnancy and hormonal changes. Weight gain will also cause back pain.


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

To prevent osteochondrosis, it is necessary to carry out physical therapy

If your doctor has prescribed a course of physical therapy for you, you need to check with him exactly which exercises are allowed for you. The exercises will help you keep your muscle corset in tone and this will reduce the load on the spine. Also, these exercises will greatly help those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Furthermore, for preventive purposes, a massage may be prescribed. Depending on the part of the spine where osteochondrosis has developed, the masseur will work on this area. This will not only relieve the pain but also help relax the muscles. In combination with physical 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, don't forget to take care of your body and take care of yourself.