Osteochondrosis is a lesion of the interarticular and intervertebral cartilage. Osteochondrosis is diagnosed in all joints, without exception, however, according to medical statistics, such injuries are more common in the intervertebral discs.
Functions of the intervertebral discs
The main function of the intervertebral discs is to absorb shocks during walking and running. Few people think about the load on the spine during movement. Each step gives a boost to the vertebrae. If there were no discs between them, the bones would wear out very soon and the nerve endings of the spine would be continually pinched between the vertebrae.
Its shock absorption capacity depends on the quality of the intervertebral disc. The younger the person, the more elastic the discs are. In infants, the articular cartilage and intervertebral discs are almost 80% water, which allows them to be as supple as possible, like a sponge. With age, tissues produce, dry out, become less flexible and lose their shock absorbing properties. The older the person, the greater the risk of developing complications of osteochondrosis, manifested by:
Intervertebral Disc Disease Symptoms
There are osteochondrosis of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions. At the same time, cervical spine problems may not be accompanied by any characteristic pain, while chest spine problems may be reflected not in the spine, but in the chest, which is why patients are often confused with heart or bronchial pain. .
Sometimes osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is manifested by pain in the arm. If there were no obvious injuries as a result of which the arm could hurt, then such a symptom should be the reason for examining the cervical spine.
If the pain, concentrating in the sacral area, flows into the leg and buttock (more often only on one side), this indicates damage to the intervertebral disc in the lumbar region. After applying pressure to the injured area, numbness in the leg, arm or a tingling sensation in one of the limbs may appear. The main vivid symptoms of osteochondrosis of the intervertebral space are:
- Pain in the sacrum, preventing sitting.
- Back pain, not allowing flexion.
- Pain sensations that subside with walking.
At the first signs of damage to the intervertebral discs, it is necessary to abandon heavy physical exertion on the back, that is, not to lift anything heavy.
Why does osteochondrosis occur?
There are several reasons that affect the status of the disks. These include smoking and excessive physical activity, especially when daily activities are associated with weight lifting. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are a surefire way to ruin discs. In addition, specific work, forcing to keep the torso in an uncomfortable position, constant load on only one shoulder, as well as sleeping on an improperly selected mattress - the risk of developing osteochondrosis.
Sleep properly on moderately hard mattresses so that the spine is in a natural, level position during rest. Soft feather beds just look comfortable. Long lying on a soft bed causes back pain in the morning. This is because the back muscles stretch as the back flexes under its weight. Stretching the back muscles, continuing throughout the night, leads to pain not only in the lower back, but also along the entire length of the spine.
Flat feet - the risk of developing osteochondrosis, because such a foot cannot fully perform the functions of a shock absorber. The spine, in relation to this, bears a greater load and the discs wear out faster.
Also, people who are overweight put more stress on the spine than those whose BMI is close to ideal. It is necessary to monitor your shape so that the ratio of weight to height does not put additional stress on the skeleton.
However, completely healthy people who lead a sporty lifestyle can have osteochondrosis. The main reason for this is the injury. An unsuccessful fall or blow to the spine often leads to hernias, protrusion, and osteochondrosis.
The diagnosis can be made by both a surgeon and an orthopedist or neurologist. Due to the fact that pain in the lumbar spine often becomes a reason to consult a neurologist, a doctor of this particular specialty is the first to examine such patients. First, the patient is examined. For the diagnosis, he must evaluate the patient's ability to twist the body, bend, sit, walk, bend the legs. Then the spine is palpated. Thanks to a manual examination, the doctor will be able to identify painful spots and feel seals and even hernias between the vertebrae.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will order an X-ray of the spine. This is the simplest study that can even be done in a rural clinic. X-rays have long been available in medical practice and are an integral part of every trauma ward. If the x-ray does not confirm the diagnosis, or when a more detailed study is required, a computed tomogram or MRI of the spine is prescribed. With the help of such an examination, it will be possible to find out the quality of the discs, assess their elasticity and integrity, as well as reveal hidden pathologies.
How to treat osteochondrosis
As a conservative treatment, a course of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. If there is no serious disc injury, and the doctor noted in the pictures that the cause of the pain lies in the pinching of the nerve by the inflamed muscle, the treatment will be reduced to the removal of the inflammatory process. Additionally, warm-up therapy may be prescribed, which will reduce swelling, relax the muscle, and release the pinched nerve.
In case of protrusion or herniated intervertebral discs, the problem of back pain can be solved with the help of surgery. Severely worn vertebrae can be replaced with prostheses.