Man is the only species of mammals that moves with an upright-straight back. In this regard, the spinal column is experiencing great overload. On the one hand, the predominance of a sedentary lifestyle, on the other, physical activity associated with lifting weights, sudden movements and even riding in public transport; all these factors contribute to the emergence of such a common disease as osteochondrosis. Moreover, this disease is most often detected in the working part of the population.
What is osteochondrosis, its types and stages
Osteochondrosis is a process in which the elasticity of the intervertebral discs is disturbed. Under the influence of unfavorable factors, the disc loses fluid, becomes more compacted and less flexible. This happens due to the load on the spine during movement: the pressure on the disc axis squeezes the fluid out of it. During a night's rest, the spine should fully recover, but with an inactive lifestyle, this does not happen, because the muscles and ligaments gradually lose their ability to stretch, which means they can fully recover.
Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine
This type of osteochondrosis is considered the most insidious. The vertebrae that make up the neck are very close together. Even a slight deformation of one of them entails serious consequences: headache, pressure surges, pain in the heart. When the disease is neglected, numbness in the limbs, tinnitus, difficulty breathing, and vision problems may appear. Some signs can be easily confused with a common headache or fatigue, but if the symptoms recur regularly, you should see a doctor as early as possible in order to establish the correct diagnosis in time.
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic spine
The main symptom of this type is chest pain. Most often it manifests itself on one side and is defined as aching or stabbing. A characteristic feature is the connection with movement, and with static loads, the pain increases. There are two types of chest pain: one is an acute but short-lived attack, the other is mild but prolonged. If you visit a doctor on time, it is possible to cure the disease without resorting to surgical methods.
Osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine
This is the most common type of osteochondrosis. Both men and women suffer from it with the same frequency. In the area of the transition of the lumbar to the sacral, acute pain occurs. The main problem is a decrease in cartilage tissue, which leads to a reduction in the distance between the vertebrae, and this is a direct path to the formation of an intervertebral hernia. Pain can appear for various reasons: compression of nerve endings, narrowing of the veins, pinching of the sciatic nerve. The exact reason will be determined by the doctor.
The defeat of two or more parts of the spine
Defeat with osteochondrosis of the entire spine or several sections worsens the general condition of a person. The likelihood of hernias is increasing many times over. Constant pain makes it impossible to lead a normal life. Until the process of change in the cartilaginous tissue becomes irreversible, it is necessary to begin treatment of the disease as soon as possible.
The disease in its development has four stages:
- the initial stage is manifested by minor and short-term pain due to the unstable work of the spine;
- at the second stage, the vertebrae are displaced, which shortens the distance between them;
- at the third stage, serious deformations of the intervertebral discs are already possible, up to the formation of a hernia;
- at the last stage, a person feels stiffness in movements, which can be accompanied by acute pain.
Symptoms and Signs
The onset of the disease is difficult to trace, since there are no pronounced symptoms. Sometimes the back becomes numb after a long sitting or lying in one position, a feeling of goose bumps appears in the legs. All these unpleasant sensations quickly pass, one has only to move or rub a stiff leg. Acute pain comes, as always, unexpectedly: a person stumbled, turned sharply - and a pain syndrome arose, in which it is scary to even think about the next step. Pressure on the disturbing area causes pain, movement is limited, muscles are tense. There is a protective spasm; thus, the body insures the painful area from further movements. This usually lasts about 24 hours before the muscles can relax.
Thus, the signs of osteochondrosis include discomfort in various parts of the body, accompanied by pain. Painful sensations can be concentrated in the neck, shoulders, back, chest. To the described signs, headache, dizziness, fatigue, heartache, impaired sensitivity in the limbs may be added. The doctor on the localization of the pain syndrome will be able to establish where the changes began in the spine.
Reasons for development
The causes of the onset of the disease include factors that interfere with proper nutrition of the disk and make it impossible to restore it:
- prolonged stay of the body in poses that have a bad effect on the work of the spine (first of all, sitting);
- trauma; especially this point applies to people involved in sports that involve heavy loads on the spine (for example, weightlifting);
- work associated with prolonged static loads (for example, a worker on an assembly line, a hairdresser, and so on); with such work, congestion in the muscles and circulatory disorders are observed.
Since the main reason for the development of osteochondrosis is the uneven distribution of the load on the spine, other factors, seemingly not important at first glance, can also affect human health. Carrying a bag in only one hand, the habit of sitting bent over with a stooped back, sleeping on a soft feather bed, curvature of the neck position during sleep (high pillow), uncomfortable (albeit fashionable) shoes - all this also serves as a prerequisite for back illnesses. An improper lifestyle, obesity, adolescent scoliosis can additionally worsen the condition.
The risk factor includes:
- people of tall stature, as their back muscles are poorly developed;
- everyone who leads a sedentary lifestyle;
- those who are forced by their profession to lift weights;
- long-term vibration truck drivers;
- former athletes;
- those who have already had similar cases of the disease in their family;
- pregnant women and women during menopause;
- elderly people;
How to diagnose an ailment
If the patient discovers the above symptoms, then you should come to the local therapist, who will redirect the patient to a neurologist. To clarify the diagnosis, a neuropathologist can refer the patient to a more narrowly specialized specialist - a vertebral neurologist (a doctor who deals exclusively with diseases of the spine). A good chiropractor can also detect illness by feeling the back. If the patient has a suspicion of having a hernia, then a trauma surgeon is indispensable.
Instrumental methods are also used to make a diagnosis:
- X-ray of the spine;
- myelography (this is a snapshot of not only bones, but also nerve endings and other structures);
- research of reflexes (the notorious hammer of a neuropathologist);
- CT scan;
- nuclear magnetic resonance (the most accurate and safe diagnostic method);
- magnetic resonance imaging (an indispensable method for pathology of intervertebral discs).
The doctor prescribes the patient and the usual tests.
In the general analysis of blood, attention should be paid to the indicator of leukocytes and ESR. An increase in values will indicate the presence of an inflammatory process in the body. A low level of hemoglobin will indicate a lack of protein food, which can directly affect the development of degenerative processes.
A general urine test will show what percentage of mineral salts exists in the body. An increased indicator indicates a violation of the correct balance of nutrients in food.
Elevated blood glucose also speaks of poor nutrition of the patient. In addition, it can be the first symptom of diabetes mellitus, which leads to complications for all organs of the human body.
An analysis of the level of cholesterol in the blood is also very important, as it shows the state of the blood vessels.
Treatment of osteochondrosis
In the initial stage of the disease, drug treatment is used to a minimum. Medicines are needed to alleviate the patient's condition, relieve inflammatory processes, and improve metabolism. If these procedures are not enough, the doctor prescribes a blockade, that is, injections, which are quite effective. Elderly people are prescribed drugs that do not accumulate in the body.
Physiotherapy complements medication well. Physiological methods include: ultrasound, the use of a magnetic field, low-frequency current, laser therapy, and so on. The principle of action is aimed at expanding blood vessels and increasing blood circulation. Thus, an analgesic effect is achieved, the impaired immune response is normalized.
Physical therapy also has a beneficial effect on the spine. A properly selected set of exercises can put the most neglected patients on their feet. Under the influence of physical activity, not only the impaired functions are restored, but also the general mental state of the patient improves. The very appointment of such therapy gives the patient confidence that he will be able to return to a full-fledged lifestyle. Such a simulator as a special treatment board has proven itself perfectly. It is an inexpensive and effective way to restore spinal function.
The massage is based on complex metabolic processes. Thanks to him, the circulation of blood and lymph in the affected area improves, which promotes metabolism, relaxation of muscle tone, joint mobility, and improvement of skin condition. Massage relieves pain, fatigue, improves the physical condition of the body.
Only a professional should be involved in manual therapy, since an illiterate specialist can harm the patient. Such therapy is a set of measures that can dramatically improve a person's condition. A good specialist can free the patient from functional blockade and restore the ability to use the affected organ fully. The impact is carried out using pressure, twisting, pushing, jerking, and so on.
A good result is obtained by stretching the spine. It can be underwater and dry. It is used to increase the space between disks. Underwater, as the name implies, takes place under water, and dry - on tables with special equipment. The traction can be vertical or horizontal, depending on the position of the body.
Complications of ignoring the disease
It is believed that everyone has chondrosis. But this is not a reason to ignore the problem. This is a completely harmless diagnosis. In especially advanced cases, the disease can lead to disability.
If you ignore the treatment, then subsequently there may be such complications:
- protrusion (initial change in the intervertebral disc);
- kyphosis (hump on the back);
- salt deposits;
- spinal cord stroke;
- circulatory disorders;
- paralysis of the legs.
Untreated cervical osteochondrosis can cause headache, dizziness, and insomnia. The pectoral passes into intercostal neuralgia. The lumbar gives such consequences as inflammation of the sciatic nerve, malfunctions of the genitourinary system. The main condition for the treatment of osteochondrosis is the observance of the phasing, and only constant purposeful efforts will give a good result.
Prevention plays an important role in keeping the spine healthy. The first step is to reduce the risk of injury in the workplace. This applies to dynamic and static loads. If there is such an opportunity, you should move to another place of work at the first pain in the back. Otherwise, you need to take the necessary measures: constantly change the position of the body, optimize the workplace, do gymnastics or at least some exercises. Yoga classes can play a special role. This ancient Indian system of postures, the so-called asanas, can help remove all tightness in the body, relax and stretch the spine.
Correct work with weights is of no small importance in prevention.
There are several rules that must be followed by everyone who takes care of their back:
- you can not lift weights with outstretched arms; it will be correct to sit down and, pressing the load to the chest, stand up with a straight back;
- you cannot carry a load in one hand; it will be correct to distribute its weight into two, approximately equal parts;
- even if the luggage weighs a little, you need to periodically stop and rest your hands;
- the spine must be prepared for the load; this can be helped by a regular set of exercises to strengthen the back, that is, the muscle corset.
If it is not possible to exercise regularly, it can be replaced by more familiar walking. It is advisable to take at least 8000 steps daily, but at the same time it is necessary to maintain good posture, combine steps with correct breathing; During the walk, you can try various walking options: on toes, on heels, lifting your legs high, race walking. If there is no time for this, then even a short but energetic walk to and from work will benefit the body.
Swimming combines the ability to relax the vertebrae and exercise. In water, the law of Archimedes works, which reduces the weight of the human body, so the muscles relax and the spine is stretched. In addition, swimming allows you to keep your body in good shape.
Running can also help prevent disease. It should be remembered that both lack of physical activity and its excessiveness are destructive for the spine. You need to carefully monitor the state of your body and avoid pain.
If signs of inflammation appear, a medicated applicator may help. When the needles come into contact with the patient's skin, nerve endings are irritated, blood vessels dilate, blood circulation improves and the pain syndrome weakens. Longer exposure, up to 40 minutes, leads to muscle relaxation.
The correct diet is one of the most effective prevention methods.
It should serve several purposes:
- the fight against excess weight;
- the required amount of vitamins and minerals;
- preventing dehydration of the body;
- slowing down destructive processes.
In order for the diet to achieve its goals, food should be low in calories and include dairy products, fish, eggs, herbs, and vegetable oil. Doctors advise eating broth-based dishes: soups, borscht, jellied meat, aspic. Indeed, such food contains protectors that protect the cartilage tissue. But the elderly should approach such a diet with caution, since the fat contained in concentrated broths can clog the cerebral vessel.
Spine health is in the hands of every person. If, at the first pains, you start doing gymnastics, sign up for the pool, revise your diet, you can not only slow down the process of destruction of the vertebrae, but also generally improve the body. If there is no time or desire to lead an active lifestyle, then you need to follow the elementary safety rules, which were written above in this article.