Cervical osteochondrosis in women

Neck pain in a woman with osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine (CS) is one of the most common pathologies of the musculoskeletal system. Every year, doctors diagnose this disease more and more often, and its course becomes more severe. According to statistics, degenerative-dystrophic changes in the upper spine are more often observed in women, especially in patients in the postmenopausal period. The main symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis in women are pain, limited mobility and cerebrovascular insufficiency, which is dangerous not only for health, but also for life. To protect yourself from the dangerous consequences of the pathology, you should start its treatment in the early stages. It is important to carry out complex therapy and change the way of life in order to stop the destruction of the spinal segments and prevent serious complications.

Development of the disease

The cervical spine is the most vulnerable to various injuries and degenerative changes. This is due to the fact that this segment is the most mobile and the muscles here are weak. The small cervical vertebrae endure heavy loads every day, which leads to the gradual destruction of the intervertebral discs. The vertebrae put pressure on each other, causing the cartilage pads between them to lose a lot of fluid and begin to break down and deform.

In addition, osteochondrosis of the cervical spine develops due to insufficient nutrition of cartilage tissue. And the spinal canal in this area is narrow, so it often gets compressed, causing neurological symptoms.

Pathology in women in the early stages is manifested by heaviness in the back of the head, numbness of the hands, etc. Patients often confuse the first signs of the disease with fatigue.

There are a large number of blood vessels and nerve roots in the neck area, and neurological disorders can occur when they are pressed. It is especially dangerous if a deformed disc or vertebra compresses the vertebral artery, which supplies important parts of the brain. When it is compressed, coordination of movements is disturbed, a woman can lose balance, vision and hearing deteriorate, the risk of stroke increases.

reference.According to statistics, cervical osteochondrosis is most often found in patients aged 25-40 years. This is due to the massive decrease in physical activity and sedentary work. Women are more often diagnosed with the disease than men because they have more fragile vertebrae and thin bone tissue.

Doctors distinguish 4 stages of osteochondrosis of the spine:

  • Stage 1– the intervertebral disc loses some of its moisture, its height decreases and cracks may appear on the fibrous ring (outer shell). This is the stage of cervical chondrosis, which is difficult to identify, since there are unexpressed symptoms. The neck gets tired quickly, there is discomfort, heaviness in the damaged area, sometimes there is a slight pain that quickly passes.
  • Stage 2– the cracks on the surface of the disc enlarge, the nucleus pulposus (the gel-like contents of the disc) is displaced and may protrude through the damaged areas. This is how protrusions of the cartilaginous sheath appear, which can press the spinal cord and its roots. Periodically, severe pain, weakness, limited mobility appear, numbness of the face, neck, shoulders and hands may appear.
  • Stage 3– the protrusion pierces the outer shell of the disc, thus forming a hernia. The pain becomes more pronounced, there are neurological disorders.
  • Stage 4– the disc is almost completely destroyed, the vertebrae rub against each other and bone growths (osteophytes) appear on their edges, which aim to stabilize the damaged segment. Nerve endings, spinal cord and blood vessels are damaged. Adjacent joints begin to be damaged. Clinical signs are pronounced.

It is easiest to stop degenerative-dystrophic changes in the first two stages of osteochondrosis of the spine. At stage 3, complex treatment will help stop further destruction of the spinal segment. At the final stage, surgery cannot be avoided.


Osteochondrosis of the spine is a complex and long-term process, which most often has several causes. In most cases, the pathology occurs due to a sedentary lifestyle, improper nutrition and metabolic disorders. Often the disease occurs due to an injury or due to the natural aging of the body and the weakening of its defenses.

Doctors identify the main causes of osteochondrosis of the spine in women:

  • Disturbance of metabolic processes.
  • Passive lifestyle.
  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Chronic muscle tension around the cervical segment.
  • Distortion of posture.
  • Lack of fluids and nutrients in the body.
  • Prolonged stay in an uncomfortable position (the neck is stretched forward and hunched back).
  • Excessive weight.
  • Frequent wearing of high-heeled shoes.
  • SHOP injuries.
  • Lifting heavy objects.
  • Autoimmune pathologies.
  • Frequent stress, chronic fatigue.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Infectious diseases.
  • Too long or short neck, etc.

All these factors provoke malnutrition of the intervertebral discs and lead to their degeneration.

Female cervical osteochondrosis can be caused by pathologies of the vertebral artery associated with genetic predisposition, intrauterine disorders and injuries during childbirth. The disease can occur due to rheumatism, endocrine disorders, excessive load on the cervical segment during pregnancy and local overload.

important.The main cause of cervical osteochondrosis in women is menopause, as well as the changes associated with this period. At this stage, the concentration of progesterone in the body decreases, which is very important for bone tissue. The likelihood of degenerative changes is associated with age-related weakening of the neck muscles and weakening of the spinal support in this area.


Osteochondrosis is characterized by an undulating course, when the acute period is replaced by remission. Exacerbation can be caused by infections, injuries, hypothermia and prolonged stress on the neck.

In cervical osteochondrosis, the pain radiates to the shoulder

The first signs of cervical osteochondrosis in women are headache, discomfort and heaviness in the neck. It is important to distinguish chondrosis pain from migraine or autonomic dysfunction in time.

Clinical manifestations of osteochondrosis of the spine in women are caused by neurological syndromes:

  • Cervical discalgia occurs when nerve endings are irritated by fragments of damaged cartilage. Then there is a specific crunch in the neck, pain that becomes more pronounced when moving the head and after sleep.
  • Scalenus syndrome is a consequence of damage to the vessels and nerves of the brachial plexus and subclavian artery. This symptom complex is accompanied by pain from the inner surface of the shoulder to the arm on the affected side. The limb becomes pale, cool, swollen and numb. The pain in the neck extends to the back of the head when the patient turns his head.
  • Humeral periarthrosis syndrome - dystrophic changes affect the tendon fibers that surround the shoulder. Painful sensations from the neck radiate to the shoulder and shoulder girdle. There is a forced position of the neck - it is inclined to the affected side, and the shoulder is slightly lowered.
  • Vertebral artery syndrome - a blood vessel is compressed by fragments of a damaged disc or osteophytes (depending on the stage of the disease). The patient feels dizzy and has a headache, nausea, sometimes vomiting. The pain is localized in the back of the head, crown and temples.
  • Cardiac - the nerve bundles of the spinal cord are damaged. Heart pain and arrhythmia appear. If C3 is damaged, pain occurs in half of the neck, the tongue swells and the patient cannot chew food normally. If C4 is injured, then discomfort occurs in the area of the shoulder girdle, collarbone and heart. When C5 is affected, the pain response from the neck spreads to the shoulder girdle, the inner surface of the shoulder. Irritation of C6 causes pain from the neck and scapula to the shoulder girdle and spreads down the arm to the thumb. If C7 is damaged, the pain syndrome spreads to the back of the shoulder girdle, affecting the entire hand, including the index and middle finger. When pressing on C8, the pain spreads from the affected area to the elbow and little finger.

Also, a woman's emotional sphere may be disturbed, weakness may appear, she may become anxious and sensitive. Insomnia often occurs, memory and attention are weakened due to regular headaches.

Symptoms of a cerebrovascular accident appear when a woman suddenly throws her head back, tilts it, or does work that puts stress on the arms and cervical vertebrae, for example, when digging, painting a ceiling, or carrying heavy objects.

Poor cerebral circulation is manifested by dizziness, unsteady gait, spots before the eyes, tinnitus, weakness and nausea. In some patients, the voice becomes hoarse, sometimes disappears, and a sore throat appears.

Osteochondrosis during menopause is accompanied by migraine, increased sweating of the body in the area between the neck and shoulder girdle. When the vertebral artery is compressed, the functioning of the cardiovascular system is disturbed.

If the disease lasts for a long time, then circulatory failure occurs in important centers that perform neuroendocrine functions. Due to the increased permeability of the vascular walls, atherosclerosis of the cerebral and cardiac arteries develops.

Establishing a diagnosis

If you notice symptoms of osteochondrosis, go to a therapist. After a visual examination, the specialist will refer you to an orthopedist, vertebrologist or neurologist.

The following methods are used to diagnose cervical osteochondrosis:

  • Radiography allows us to understand that the patient's vertebrae are displaced, there are osteophytes on their edges, the distance between the vertebrae has decreased, etc. For this purpose, the examination is carried out in different planes. To detail the characteristic changes, the doctor takes directed photographs.
  • Computed tomography of the cervical spine gives detailed information about the pathological changes in the vertebrae. This method allows you to get three-dimensional images for a more detailed study, it is used in severe diagnostic cases.
  • MRI is used to accurately assess the condition of the soft tissues (nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, muscles) in the affected area.
  • Electromyography allows you to check the conduction of nerve fibers.

Doctors may also prescribe an ultrasound scan (Doppler ultrasound of the main arteries of the brain) to determine the state of blood flow in this area.

Conservative treatment

In the early stages, the treatment of osteochondrosis of the spine in women can be carried out at home. However, the doctor must prepare a treatment regimen. It is important to understand that this is a long process and full recovery is unlikely to be possible (especially in elderly women).

Complex treatment includes:

  • Medicine intake.
  • Use of orthopedic devices.
  • Physiotherapy.
  • Physiotherapy procedures.
  • Massage, manual impact.
  • Alternative treatments.

Conservative methods will help relieve pain, inflammation, normalize muscle tone, improve metabolic processes, nourish the damaged segments of the spine, etc. With timely therapy, it is possible to stop the pathological changes.

Medicines for cervical osteochondrosis will help get rid of inflammation and pain

Treatment of cervical osteochondrosis in women is carried out with the help of drugs that will help improve the metabolism of the cartilage pads between the vertebrae, relieve inflammation and pain. The following drugs are used for this purpose:

  • NSAIDs. They will help relieve mild to moderate inflammation and pain.
  • Analgesics. It relieves the pain.
  • Medicines to improve cerebral circulation.
  • Muscle relaxants help relieve muscle spasms.
  • Chondroprotectors. They help stop disc destruction, improve metabolic processes and speed up recovery.
  • Medicines based on magnesium.
  • Nootropics. They stimulate the work of the brain by normalizing its blood circulation and have a mild sedative effect.

reference.For intense pain that is not relieved by oral drugs, therapeutic blockades are used, for example with an anesthetic solution or NSAIDs.

The treatment can be supplemented with anti-inflammatory and pain relievers in the form of gels, creams and ointments. They will be effective at the stage of remission or in combination with oral drugs.

The decision on the choice of drug combinations is made by the doctor. The specialist will prepare a treatment regimen and determine their dosage. It is important to follow his recommendations, as many of the drugs described above can lead to dangerous complications.

During the acute stage of osteochondrosis of the spine, a woman should refuse heavy physical activity. To relieve the cervical segment, you need to wear a special corset (Schants collar) that will fix the vertebrae in the correct position. This device is recommended for use during prolonged sedentary life or heavy physical work.

Physiotherapy procedures will help relieve pain and improve blood circulation in the damaged area:

  • Diadynamic therapy.
  • Magnetotherapy.
  • Electrophoresis with anesthetic, glucocorticosteroid, proteolytic agent.
  • Electroanalgesia.
  • Ultraviolet radiation, etc.

The therapeutic effect appears approximately after the third session, after which headaches, hearing and vision disorders, vertigo weaken or disappear, sleep normalizes and the general condition improves.

Using underwater traction of the cervical segment, you can increase the distance between the vertebrae, release a nerve or blood vessel from compression and restore the normal position of the vertebrae.

Massage will normalize muscle tone and reduce the flow of lymph fluid that causes swelling. After a few sessions, blood circulation in the damaged area improves.

Therapeutic exercises are an effective way to treat cervical osteochondrosis

Therapeutic gymnastics is one of the most effective methods of treating osteochondrosis of the spine. Exercise therapy allows you to strengthen weak neck muscles, which will then take some of the load off the spine and help stop or slow down degenerative changes. During training, blood circulation improves, metabolic processes and disc nutrition accelerate, which has a positive effect on their condition.

Women should exercise every day. They consist of simple but effective exercises. The complex consists of turns, tilts of the head in different directions, as well as movements of the neck, during which the hands are used. These items can be performed at home, but only after a doctor's permission. Physical therapy is carried out only at the stage of remission.

Complex treatment can be supplemented with reflexotherapy (acupuncture), hirudotherapy (treatment with leeches), swimming, etc.


The operation is prescribed in the last stages of osteochondrosis of the spinal cord, which are accompanied by serious destruction of the osteochondral structures. In addition, surgical intervention cannot be avoided if conservative methods are ineffective or the spinal canal is significantly narrowed.

In the above cases, an anterior cervical discectomy is performed. During the procedure, the doctor immobilizes the damaged segment of the spine and removes the hernia that is pressing on the spinal nerve. The vertebrae between which the disc is removed are then fused. If necessary, the space between the vertebrae is filled with a synthetic insert (cage).

After 3-5 days, the patient is discharged home. The rehabilitation period is about 12 weeks. To speed up recovery, you need to take medication, wear a corset, lead a healthy lifestyle, go to physical therapy procedures, and eventually exercise.

Lifestyle recommendations

In order to quickly get rid of the unpleasant symptoms of osteochondrosis and stop degenerative-dystrophic changes in the cervical segment, you need to adjust your lifestyle. To do this, the patient must follow the following recommendations:

  • Go for walks every day, avoid running, jumping and other explosive activities.
  • Do not carry heavy objects.
  • You cannot sit for a long time, in extreme cases wear a corset and periodically take a horizontal position.
  • Do special physical exercises for the back muscles at home.
  • Sleep on an orthopedic mattress and a special pillow.
  • Follow a diet, supplement your diet with foods rich in magnesium, calcium (nuts, dairy products, seafood, legumes), as well as plant fiber, chondroitin (jelly meat, jelly). Avoid fatty, fried, overly salty foods and alcohol. Your doctor will advise you in more detail about the rules of nutrition. But in any case it must be right.

Hypothermia should not be allowed, warming will be useful in the absence of an inflammatory process.


In the absence of timely treatment of cervical osteochondrosis, a woman may experience the following consequences of the pathology:

  • The probability of a protrusion, which after some time transforms into a hernia. The protrusion presses on the spinal cord as well as its nerves, causing neurological disorders.
  • Osteophytes occur when the disc is severely damaged and irritates the spinal nerves and blood vessels.
  • In advanced cases, a strong weakening of the neck muscles or partial paralysis is possible, after which the head involuntarily hangs to the side or forward.
  • Compression of the spinal arteries, impaired blood circulation in the affected area. This condition can cause neuralgia (pain along the nerve), hearing and vision problems.
  • Paralysis (incomplete or complete) of the arms.
  • Stroke etc.

If a woman pays attention to the problem in the early stages of osteochondrosis of the spinal cord, she will be able to prevent the conditions described above.


Ideally, the prevention of osteochondrosis of the spine should be carried out during the period of intrauterine development. The future mother must exclude factors that negatively affect the development of the fetus: infections, oxygen starvation, intoxication. If there has been a birth, the newborn should be treated.

To reduce the likelihood of developing osteochondrosis of the spine, a woman should follow the following recommendations:

  • Load your spine evenly, for example, carry the load in both hands or alternately in the right and then the left.
  • Don't lift too many weights by yourself.
  • Try to avoid neck injuries and hypothermia.
  • While working in the garden, take a break every 1. 5 hours and lie down to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Choose shoes with elastic soles that will cushion the impact when running or jumping.
  • When sitting for a long time, use a chair with a high back and a headrest or wear a corset.

It is also important to eat properly, control weight, avoid stress, take vitamin supplements for medical reasons and promptly treat pathologies that can cause osteochondrosis. During the stage of remission, it is recommended to visit sanatoriums to undergo a course of treatment.

The most important

As you can see, osteochondrosis of the cervical spine occurs more often in women than in men, since the former have more fragile vertebrae and thin bone tissue. Patients in the postmenopausal period are particularly susceptible to pathology. The disease is manifested by pain, neurological disorders, as well as dangerous symptoms of a cerebrovascular accident. It is recommended to start treatment in the early stages to avoid dangerous complications of osteochondrosis. To do this, a woman must take medication, adjust her lifestyle, attend physical therapy procedures, massage, do physical therapy, etc. Surgical treatment is indicated only in advanced cases. To prevent pathology, you should maintain moderate physical activity, timely treat injuries and diseases that can provoke osteochondrosis, etc.