Stages and symptoms of spinal osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis of the spine is a chronic disease based on a degenerative process of bone and cartilage tissue. All parts of the spine are affected by pathological processes.

disease description

The disease is more common in older adults, but there has been a recent increase in younger patients showing signs of the disease. According to the location of spinal lesions, it is customary to divide it into cervical, thoracic and lumbar osteochondrosis. The main and characteristic symptom of back osteochondrosis is a dull, moderate pain due to compression of the root of the spinal cord.

Pathogenesis and stages

The development of the disease is usually divided into several stages. The process begins as an asymptomatic process with initial changes in cartilage tissue and ends with the complete fusion of multiple vertebrae with each other.


The first stage is the most difficult to diagnose and is also called the preclinical stage due to the mild symptoms of the disease. The patient has general weakness and discomfort in the back. These signs are often mistaken for fatigue. In medical practice, first-degree osteochondrosis can only be diagnosed incidentally, for example during preventive examinations.


During grade 2 osteochondrosis, patients experience pain in the spine. This stage is the first outcome without the necessary precautions. There is an initial process of disc destruction. The fixation of the vertebrae is disrupted and the distance between them is reduced, resulting in compression of spinal nerve fibers.

Based on the patient's chief complaint, objective examination, and X-ray, the doctor diagnosed "2nd degree osteochondrosis of the neck" and prescribed treatment. The disease can be managed without serious consequences if all the recommendations of the specialist are implemented.


The third stage is characterized by the initiation of an irreversible process in the cartilage tissue of the annulus fibrosus. Dehydration of the nucleus pulposus, resulting in a herniated disc. The pain is due to compression of the spinal nerves. At this stage, the damaged disc cannot be recovered. Hernias are removed by surgical methods, treated with the help of drugs.


During this phase, the body adapts to the resulting spinal changes. Compensatory bone tissue grows along the edges of the vertebrae (osteophytes) to strengthen the affected part. They can compress the root of the spinal cord, causing pain. As a result, the osteophytes grow together, causing a part of the spine to not move at all.

Symptoms and Varieties

Weightlifting is the cause of spinal osteochondrosis

Osteochondrosis is a chronic disease. The alternation of periods of disease progression and remission is his characteristic. The symptoms of this disease are very typical. Manifested by back pain, sudden movement and heavy lifting, increased pain, possible numbness in the extremities, fatigue and depression with less physical exertion.

Persistent pain can cause the body to become overly stressed and fatigued. In chronic osteochondrosis, pain syndromes can have shooting characteristics and radiate to the back of the head, shoulders, and lower extremities when the intervertebral discs compress nerve fibers.

cervical spine

This is one of the most common and dangerous sites of the disease because of the large number of nerve fibers and large major blood vessels in the neck region.

For cervical osteochondrosis, symptoms may be as follows:

  • severe headache;
  • Pain radiating to the shoulders and extremities, into the head;
  • restricted neck movement;
  • dizziness and loss of consciousness;
  • noise in the ear;
  • Impaired motor coordination.

These symptoms are caused by impaired blood circulation in the carotid artery due to inflammation, swelling, and muscle spasms. With the presence of vertebral artery compression syndrome and lack of proper medical treatment, this can lead to cerebral ischemia.


Osteochondrosis of the thoracic region is very rare. Signs of thoracic osteochondrosis are pain and burning between the shoulder blades. With compression of the intercostal nerve endings, this can lead to intercostal neuralgia. It manifests as a sharp pain in the chest that does not allow deep breathing.

Back pain with osteochondrosis

Disruption of blood circulation and nutritional deficiencies due to inflammatory processes can lead to diseases of the internal organs located in this area, various heart diseases. In this case, qualified treatment is essential.

lumbar spine

More than 50% of cases occur in this department. The initial symptom of lumbar osteochondrosis is a characteristic pain in the lower back that is exacerbated by sudden movements, heavy lifting, and even weather changes. Symptoms such as varicose veins, numbness of limbs, and joint pain are not excluded.

Osteophytes appearing later in the disease often lead to inflammation of the sciatic nerve - sciatica, which is one of the possible complications. Lumbar radiculitis also refers to a complication of osteochondrosis. It manifests as pain in the buttocks that spreads along the thighs and calves, reaching the feet.

Cause and Prevention

Often, the disease is often caused by multiple causes at the same time and is therefore also considered multifactorial. The main causes of osteochondrosis are:

  • back injuries and bruises;
  • cumulative disease and metabolic disorders;
  • a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight;
  • Congenital and acquired postural disorders;
  • hereditary.
Osteochondrosis pain during sedentary work

Preventing osteochondrosis boils down to simple but effective methods. It is necessary to change your lifestyle to a more active one (go swimming) and do not forget to do gymnastics for your back during long-term immobility. You should start eating right, including as many fruits and vegetables and dairy products as possible in your diet.

Effective prevention would also be to seek prompt medical help when the first symptoms of the disease appear.


Treatment of spinal osteochondrosis should be complex. The main treatment directions for the disease are:

  • Drug therapy (NSAIDs, analgesics, chondroprotectants, vitamins);
  • Physiotherapy (electrophoresis, UHF);
  • massage;
  • exercise therapy;
  • Gymnastics (can be performed at home);
  • Surgery (discectomy).