Osteochondrosis is a lesion of the joints and intervertebral cartilage. Osteopondrosis is diagnosed in all joints without exception, however, medical statistics show that such lesions are more common in the intervertebral discs.
Functions of intervertebral discs
The main function of intervertebral discs is to absorb shocks while walking and running. Few 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 quickly and the nerve endings in the spine would be constantly trapped between the vertebrae.
Its shock-absorbing ability depends on the quality of the intervertebral disc. The younger a person is, the more flexible the plates are. In newborns, articular cartilage and intervertebral discs are almost 80% water, allowing them to be as flexible as possible like a sponge. As we age, tissues emerge, dry out, become less flexible, and lose their shock-absorbing properties. The older a person is, the greater the risk of developing complications of osteochondrosis
Symptoms of intervertebral disc disease
There are osteochondrosis of the neck, chest and lumbar region. However, cervical spine problems may not be accompanied by characteristic pain at all, while chest spine problems may not be reflected by spinal but by chest pain, so patients are often confused by pain in the heart or bronchi.
Sometimes osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is manifested by pain in the arm. If there were no obvious injuries that could have caused the arm to be injured, this symptom should be the cause of the cervical spine examination.
If the pain concentrated in the sacral zone flows to the leg and buttocks (more often only on one side), this indicates damage to the intervertebral disc of the lumbar region. After applying pressure to the injured area, numbness of the legs, arms, or tingling in one of the limbs may occur. The main vivid symptoms of osteochondrosis of the intervertebral space are:
- Pain in the sacrum, prevents sitting.
- Back pain, does not allow bending.
- Feeling pain while walking.
At the first signs of damage to the intervertebral discs, heavy physical exertion on the back should be omitted, meaning that nothing should be lifted.
Why does osteochondrosis occur?
The condition of disks is affected by a number of reasons. These include smoking and excessive physical activity, especially when daily activities involve weight gain. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle and a poor diet are a sure way to spoil the plates. In addition, specific work, forcing the torso to be kept in an awkward position, constant strain on only one shoulder, and sleeping on an incorrectly selected mattress - the risk of developing osteochondrosis.
Sleep properly on mattresses of moderate hardness so that your spine reaches a natural level while resting. Soft feather beds just look comfortable. Prolonged lying on a soft bed causes morning back pain. This is because the back muscles stretch while your back bends under your weight. Stretching the muscles of the back, continuing all night, not only leads to pain in the lower back, but also along the entire length of the spine.
Flat feet - the risk of developing osteochondrosis because such a foot is unable to fully perform its shock-absorbing functions. The spine bears an increased load in this regard, and the discs wear faster.
In addition, overweight people cause more stress on the spine than those whose BMI is close to ideal. You need to pay attention to your shape so that the weight to height ratio does not cause additional stress to the skeleton.
However, completely healthy people who lead a sporty lifestyle may have osteochondrosis. The main reason for this is injury. Unsuccessful fall or stroke of the spine often leads to hernias, protrusions, and osteochondrosis.
Diagnosis of osteochondrosis
The diagnosis can be made by either a surgeon or an orthopedic or neurologist. Due to the fact that lumbar spine pain often becomes a reason for referring to a neurologist, a physician in this specialty will examine these patients first. The patient is examined first. For diagnosis, you need to assess the patient’s ability to twist the body, bend, sit, walk, bend their legs. The spine is then palpated. Thanks to the manual examination, the doctor will be able to identify the painful points and will feel the seals between the vertebrae and even hernias.
To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will order an X-ray of the spine. This is the simplest test that can even be done in a rural clinic. X-rays have long been available in medical practice and are an integral part of all traumatology departments. If the X-ray does not confirm the diagnosis, or if a more detailed examination is needed, a computed tomogram or MRI of the spine is prescribed. Such an examination makes it possible to know the quality of the plates, to assess their flexibility and integrity, and to reveal hidden pathologies.
Treatment of osteochondrosis
A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug may be prescribed as a conservative treatment. If there is no serious disc change and the doctor has noticed in the pictures that the cause of the pain is that the inflamed muscle is squeezing the nerve, treatment is reduced to remove the inflammatory process. In addition, warming therapy can be prescribed to reduce swelling, relax the muscle, and release the pinched nerve.
In the case of protrusion or herniated intervertebral discs, the issue of back pain can be resolved with the help of surgery. Heavily worn vertebrae can be replaced with prostheses.