Osteochondrosis: causes, treatment, prevention, diagnosis

Osteochondrosis is a degenerative-dystrophic lesion of the tissues of the spine, leading to a change in the shape and deletion of the discs, vertebral bodies and joint surfaces. Usually, the degenerative process mainly affects bones and ligaments. This condition is considered one of the most common causes of back pain.

Most diagnosed cases of osteonecrosis occur in the lumbar region. Such statistics are natural, since this part of the spine bears the load of the entire upper body. With osteonecrosis, the vertebrae are displaced and as a result can develop herniated discs or compress blood vessels and nerve endings. Bone tumor is a very painful disease, brings a lot of discomfort to the patient and is very difficult to treat.

osteonecrosis of the spine

Types of osteonecrosis and its stages of development

There are four types of osteonecrosis.

Diseases are divided into groups according to location:

  • osteonecrosis of the lumbar spine;
  • osteonecrosis of the cervical spine;
  • osteonecrosis of the thoracic spine;
  • disseminated osteonecrosis - damage to two or more parts of the spine.

The explanation for the localization of osteonecrosis is simple - the disease develops in the parts that are subjected to the greatest pressure and are highly mobile.

The disease develops in stages, changing from local symptoms to general manifestations.

The stages of development of osteonecrosis are as follows:

  • Instability of the vertebrae due to a violation of the position of the discs. At this stage, the patient feels discomfort with movements affecting the affected spine. At this stage of osteonecrosis, the spine is very vulnerable to injury.
  • The destruction of the annulus fibers, the disc fissure decreases in size.
  • This stage is characterized by rupture of annulus fibers and protrusion of one or more disc nuclei. Disc herniation occurs and the line of the spine is deformed.
  • Due to bone growth, the patient's movements are limited, the pain syndrome is pronounced. The ligaments of the spine become stiff.

At any stage, successful treatment of osteonecrosis is still possible, but the later it gets, the more difficult it becomes to eliminate its consequences, and in the final stages it is almost impossible to cure. sick.

The reasons for the development of osteonecrosis

The complete list of causes of osteonecrosis is huge. It includes both individual factors and their combination, which become the cause of the displacement of the intervertebral discs.

But usually, osteonecrosis develops due to the following reasons:

  • heredity - if one of the parents has osteonecrosis the person is at risk for the disease, since the structure of the disc cartilage is usually hereditary;
  • arduous work, the load exceeds the allowable hygiene standards for workers;
  • Staying in one position for long periods of time can also be an important factor. Usually, osteonecrosis is diagnosed in sedentary occupations;
  • various back diseases lead to curvature of the spine;
  • vitamin deficiency and anemia;
  • back injury;
  • Infectious Diseases;
  • congenital malformations of the spine, leading to rapid shedding of discs;
  • natural aging of the body;
  • fat;
  • constant stress;
  • Hypothermia.

Symptoms of osteonecrosis

Depending on the location of the disease, its symptoms can vary significantly. This is due to the fact that the protrusion of the discs and the compression of the vessels affect the nearest tissues and organs, causing a number of symptoms that are inherent only in this belt of the spine. Therefore, the symptoms of different types of osteonecrosis should be considered separately.

Symptoms of osteonecrosis of the dorsal spine

Lumbosacral (or simply lumbar) osteosarcoma is the most common type of this disease. The lower back acts as a shock absorber for most of a person's movements and turns.

Symptoms of localization of the disease in this department look like this:

  • Lower back pain that gets worse with exercise, twisting, or staying in one position for long periods of time. As a rule, pain, sharp pain in the early stages rarely occurs and can be a symptom of a herniated disc;
  • leg pain due to compression of spinal roots. Such pains can be different - like shooting, aching, spreading only to one side of the thigh;
  • limited movement, the patient has pain when turning, bending and sitting. If the patient lies in a position that is comfortable for him, the pain will disappear.

Symptoms of cervical spine osteonecrosis

Cervical spine tumors are not uncommon in recent years. The vertebrae of this segment are located very close together, but the muscular framework of the cervical spine is underdeveloped. Cervical spondylosis causes displacement of the vertebrae, which in turn compresses nerve endings and blood vessels, leading to pain.

The main symptoms of the development of the disease in this part are:

  • headache. Dizziness with cervical osteonecrosis is also one of the most characteristic symptoms, since the compression of the nerves and blood vessels is manifested in this way. The patient describes constant, dull, pressing pain. Headaches are worse with turning and movement and are rarely relieved by pain medication. When turning the head to one side, the patient also feels dizzy;
  • pain sensation even in the fingers;
  • pain in the arms and chest. Pain in the heart area, similar to angina pain, but can last for hours;
  • numbness and tingling of the fingers;
  • tongue numbness.
osteonecrosis in the cervical spine

Symptoms of osteonecrosis of the thoracic spine

Thoracic osteosarcoma is one of the rarest forms of this disease. The main reason for its occurrence is curvature of the spine. Scoliosis can be congenital or acquired. This type of osteonecrosis is difficult to diagnose because of the localization of the pain. With thoracic osteonecrosis, the pain occurs in the back and is of an aching nature.

Other symptoms of osteonecrosis of the breast include:

  • Chest pain that gets worse if the person moves or bends over. Patients often describe shingles-like pain;
  • pain in the heart, liver, stomach;
  • numbness in the chest area;
  • violation of sexual functions.

Symptoms of Common Osteonecrosis

Since osteonecrosis is usually a combination of several different forms of the disease, it presents as a combination of symptoms characteristic of osteonecrosis of the thoracic, neck, and low back, depending on the type of osteonecrosis. their presence.

If you find yourself with similar symptoms, see your doctor right away. Prevention is easier than dealing with the consequences.


To diagnose osteonecrosis of the back, a neurologist prescribes studies of the spine as follows:

  • X-ray;
  • Computerized tomography;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging.

How is osteonecrosis treated?

In most cases, osteonecrosis is treated with conservative methods. Doctors always prescribe some type of treatment, including medication, exercise therapy, and others.

The most common treatments for osteonecrosis are:

  • physical therapy;
  • types of massage;
  • medical preparations;
  • traction;
  • Acupressure;
  • manual therapy;
  • Exercise therapy.

Let's take a closer look at each of these methods.

Physical therapy

It is almost always used in the treatment of lumbar osteonecrosis. Physical therapy uses lasers, ultrasound waves, and oscillating magnetic fields to help relieve pain. It also helps neutralize inflammation. This method allows you to reduce the dose of medication needed to relieve pain. No side effects.


Massage therapy gives the same positive results as physical therapy. But can not be used at the time of the disease is in the acute stage. A massage in the period of remission has a positive effect on the state of the nervous system, relieves pain and excessive muscle tension, stimulates blood circulation and strengthens the walls of blood vessels. In addition, massage therapy can increase the body's resistance to diseases and normalize metabolism.

But there are a number of contraindications to therapeutic massage that can make its use impossible. These include skin diseases, open wounds, any inflammatory process in the body.


Medical treatment of osteonecrosis of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine is almost always performed. As a rule, drugs are used during exacerbations of the disease and their action is aimed at reducing painful symptoms. Tablets, ointments, gels and capsules are divided into categories depending on its spectrum of action and type. There are means for restoring cartilage tissue, ointments to stimulate blood circulation, gels with a warming effect and other ways to improve the functions of the motor system of the body.


The traction of the spine is its extension. During stretching, the vertebrae are evenly distributed along the entire length of the spine, and excessive stress, localized at the site of osteonecrosis, is reduced. For traction, special equipment and simulators are used. This method is not a single treatment, it only helps to relieve pain and release pinched nerves and blood vessels. During traction, the spine will take its natural shape, however, additional therapies and massages are used to immobilize it.

traction of the spine with osteonecrosis


Acupressure is often used in conjunction with massage therapies. It is based on precise action at pain points and reflex zones. As a stand-alone approach, such therapy is not used, but it is considered a good adjunct to treatments for cervical osteosarcoma and other diseases. Acupressure relieves pain, restores the natural load on different points of the spine, but has a very short-term effect.

Manual therapy

Manual therapy is often used to correct the curvature of the spine. This type of therapy, like other methods of physical impact on the spine, refers to supplementation and, although it has a good temporary effect, quickly loses its effect without the need for prescription drugs, exercises. and other treatments for osteonecrosis.

Exercise therapy

Physiotherapy is considered the mainstay of treatment for osteonecrosis, regardless of its location. This is a very effective method of strengthening the muscles of the back by putting less stress on the joints and muscles. Exercises for cervical osteochondrosis are performed only under the supervision of an instructor or on their recommendation. Exercise therapy can be performed at any age and with all forms of osteonecrosis, with the only exceptions being acute-stage disease and significant back injuries, which can become severe. more important. Exercise therapy helps relieve back pain, restore flexibility to the spine, and improve the patient's overall health.

Gymnastics for osteonecrosis consists of a set of exercises that do not require much physical effort and are focused on gradually improving the patient's muscle tone. They can be performed by the patient himself with the participation of a physician or with the use of additional training devices.

Exercise therapy includes the following types of techniques:

  • physiotherapy - such exercises are performed by the patient on special equipment and simulators. The method is applied in cases of severe spinal injury accompanied by osteonecrosis, when the patient's movement is difficult. This method also helps, if necessary, the development of certain muscle groups and helps to improve posture;
  • Kinesiotherapy is a complex of respiratory and physical exercises, the impact of which is directly on the areas of development of osteonecrosis. The course is developed individually for each patient and helps to improve joint mobility, muscle tone, elasticity of ligaments and tendons;
  • terrenkur - walking tours, consisting of a complex of simple exercises and physical activity. With this method, you can improve the work of the cardiovascular system, increase endurance and improve respiratory function;
  • hydrokinesis therapy - gymnastics, exercises performed in the pool. Usually done in seawater or warm water. Exercise strengthens muscles, joints and ligaments and improves patient health;
  • Medical swimming is a good method for the prevention and treatment of various types of osteonecrosis. Helps develop correct posture and natural position of the shoulder spine. Swimming can even help correct spinal deformities.

Treatment of osteonecrosis with gymnastics

Osteosarcoma of any type should be treated with exercises and small loads. Not only does this help eliminate pain and discomfort as quickly as possible, but it also speeds up the overall treatment process, restores posture, and increases spinal flexibility. Each type of osteonecrosis involves treatment with different forms of exercise. Depending on the location of the disease, complexes can target a specific group of muscles and vertebrae.

Exercises for lumbar osteonecrosis

Swimming is considered the most effective treatment for lumbar osteonecrosis. A special set of simulation and therapeutic exercises is also recommended. Most exercises are designed to strengthen your back muscles. One of the most popular exercises is the "bike". It is done lying on your back. The patient performs movements with his feet, mimicking the rotation of a bicycle pedal. Another popular exercise - with the support of bent elbows, you need to bend several times in the chest area and fix the pose for 4 seconds. Exercises are repeated no more than five times in a complex. In this case, the stress level should be adjusted by the patient. If the health condition allows, they can gradually increase, and if the patient feels pain when exercising, they must stop or stop exercising.

Exercises for cervical osteonecrosis

Treatment of cervical osteonecrosis requires the appointment of two types of gymnastics:

  • exercises for the cervical spine, where the range of motion is minimal. In this case, the patient creates resistance to neck movements with his or her hands. Exercises to overcome this resistance, so that the cervical muscle group is strengthened;
  • The second part of the technique includes dynamic exercises and head rotation, which increases mobility of the joints of the cervical spine. All exercises that involve strengthening the neck should be performed at a slow pace, without sudden movements, and without appreciable stress.

To complement the exercises, a health and therapeutic swim path may be prescribed. Both treatments aim like therapeutic exercises - to increase mobility of the cervical spine.

Exercises for osteonecrosis of the chest area

One feature of the treatment of thoracic osteosarcoma is that most exercises are performed while standing. The most common option allowed for most patients with this diagnosis is arm rotation and trunk flexion. Warm up before doing gymnastics in a sitting position - in a chair. While inhaling, the patient places his hands behind his head and leans back before pressing on the top of the chair again. On exhalation, the patient lowers the arms along the body.

Another exercise of the therapeutic complex for osteochondrosis of the thoracic cavity is the back bend when standing on all fours. Absolutely all forms of exercise should be done slowly and without sudden movements. Swimming, mechanical therapy, and mechanotherapy are also helpful for patients with thoracic osteonecrosis.

Exercises for a common type of osteonecrosis

The common type of osteonecrosis is quite difficult to treat, as it involves two diseases at once. To effectively combat it, a special set of exercises is being developed, which includes methods of various types of gymnastics. In this case, the stronger the spine damaged by the disease, the less effective the exercises will be. Exercise under the supervision of a coach helps patients recover faster and prevent dangerous complications that may occur. Then there are neurological type disorders, autonomic disorders, organ damage and changes in the position of the vertebrae.

At first, doctors advised the patient not to do more than three or four exercises from the complex that had been developed for him. In this case, preference should be given to performing several exercises daily rather than a large number of exercises performed once a week. No exercise should hurt the patient. If the patient feels discomfort, the load should be reduced. In the event that reducing the load does not work, you need to stop the exercise and replace it with another more suitable exercise.

When the disease is in the acute stage, exercises can only be performed while standing or sitting, in case of remission, you can practice standing or on all fours.

All these exercises are suitable for treating osteonecrosis at home. But they must be taken strictly according to the instructions of the trainer and only after completing the initial course recommended by the doctor and ensuring the correct way to perform the entire complex and the corresponding load.

exercise to treat osteonecrosis


Osteonecrosis, if left untreated, can lead to complications such as:

  • vegetative dystonia;
  • pulpitis;
  • disc herniation;
  • violation of oxygen supply to the brain.