Osteochondrosis: symptoms, causes, treatment, prevention
Translated from Greek, the word "chondrosis" can be translated as "cartilage". However, as a rule, the word "osteochondrosis" does not mean any damage to the cartilaginous tissue (which would be logical), but only diseases of the cartilage of the spine.
In patients with osteochondrosis, the structure (and hence the function) of the intervertebral discs - special cartilaginous structures that ensure the mobility and flexibility of the human spine - is disturbed.
As the disease progresses, irreversible changes also appear and develop in the vertebrae themselves.
Causes of osteochondrosis
All the reasons why a person develops a disease such as osteochondrosis, experts divide into endogenous (or internal) and exogenous (or, respectively, external).
Endogenous (internal) causes are considered to be developmental disorders of the spine that have arisen in humans in the womb, as well as age-related changes in cartilage tissue and a hereditary predisposition to osteochondrosis.
The main exogenous (external) cause, experts believe, is the incorrect distribution of the load on the spine. It is this distribution that causes the changes occurring with the cartilage tissue in those places where the greatest excess pressure falls.
In addition, spinal injuries and various infections, stoop and incorrect posture, weakness of the back muscles and lateral (S-shaped) curvature of the spine become the causes of osteochondrosis. In addition, dragging heavy weights or prolonged uncomfortable or unnatural posture can have negative consequences for the spine.
Contrary to popular belief, not only people of mental labor and those who do not monitor their posture can suffer (and suffer) from osteochondrosis. This disease torments even those who are well prepared physically. For example, movers, drivers and professional athletes.
In addition to the reasons for a purely mechanical property, metabolic problems (mostly calcium and phosphorus), as well as a deficiency of trace elements and vitamins (in particular magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin D) can lead to the appearance and development of osteochondrosis. Many doctors are sure that the inherited predisposition to osteochondrosis also plays a significant role in the onset of the disease.
What happens with osteochondrosis?
When a person rolls weights, jumps or falls, often sits in an uncomfortable position, and so on, the intervertebral discs receive microtrauma. If such injuries occur more or less often, over time, the discs lose their elasticity and flatten, and at the same time the distance between the vertebrae decreases. As a result, the nerve roots extending from the spinal cord are pinched. This is what causes back pain. At the same time, in the very place where the neurovascular bundle was pinched, edema forms - as a result, the load on the same bundle increases, and the pain intensifies.
When the destruction of the intervertebral disc has already begun, it ceases to act as a shock absorber, receiving more and more injuries. Over time, the human spine loses its natural flexibility.
How does osteochondrosis manifest itself?
The main manifestation of osteochondrosis is back pain. From what kind of intervertebral discs are damaged, the patient feels different pain. He may have pain not only in his back, but also in his neck, and maybe his arm or heart. Sometimes osteochondrosis gives off pain even to the chest. A person can easily decide that something is wrong with his heart, but in fact it is osteochondrosis that has pinched one of the nerves. In addition to pain, a person often feels muscle numbness and overexertion. Headache, nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, dizziness and double vision, as well as cases of fainting, may indicate that the vessels carrying blood to the brain are compressed.
Diagnosis in osteochondrosis
If you have any of the symptoms described above, this is a reason to seek the advice of a traumatologist or neurologist. One of these specialists will examine the spinal column and examine the cerebral circulation. If the doctor deems it necessary, he can send you for an x-ray, or order a computed or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the area of your spine.
Treatment of osteochondrosis
Get ready to spend a lot of time on the treatment of osteochondrosis. Plus, you need your willpower. There are quite a few ways to deal with osteochondrosis. These are medical methods, and traction, and massage, and therapeutic gymnastics, and acupuncture. In addition, chiropractors have their own methods - in some cases, they show high efficiency. Traditional medicine is also rich in ideas, offering to treat osteochondrosis with the help of bee venom, cupping massage and many other miraculous methods. If osteochondrosis has a complication in the form of a herniated intervertebral discs, alas, one cannot do without surgical intervention - an operation is needed.
Prevention of osteochondrosis
This is what specialized doctors usually recommend for the prevention of sciatica and osteochondrosis:
- Correct spinal curvatures and posture disorders in time. Especially it is worth paying attention to this point for parents of schoolchildren.
- Play sports and exercise regularly. Thanks to sports loads, the so-called muscle corset is formed. Muscles are far more effective at taking care of your posture than standing by a tree and sitting with a straight back. In addition, your own muscles will protect the spine even when you forget about it.
- Try to eat right, stick to your diet. Watch for foods high in vitamins, calcium and magnesium in your diet (they are abundant in fish and other seafood, spinach, kale, nuts and seeds, beans and peas, fresh milk and wholemeal breads).
- Avoid getting overweight. Extra pounds is an unnecessary strain on your spine.
- When carrying weights, distribute the load as evenly as possible on both hands. Whenever possible, use backpacks rather than bags. If you need to lift something very heavy - lean on your feet, not on your spine, see how weightlifters do it.