Grade 3 osteochondrosis is characterized by complete destruction of the intervertebral disc and its protrusion. Such disorders provoke circulatory disorders and the neurological spectrum. As a result, the patient feels pain, loses sensitivity and the possibility of movement in the affected area. Often there are concomitant symptoms: migraine, hearing and visual impairment, or urinary and fecal incontinence. It is possible to conduct conservative treatment, but only surgical intervention is quite effective.
What kind of disease?
Osteochondrosis is a chronic progressive illness associated with the destruction of intervertebral formations – discs. The latter (normal) are necessary to “soften” the movements in the spinal column.
More than 70% of people at least once in the last month felt back pain. In most cases, the cause is osteochondrosis.
The first signs of an ailment appear already in youth, however, the full symptoms are revealed only in the senile period. For this reason, osteochondrosis is often diagnosed in the late stages.
With osteochondrosis of the 3rd degree, a significant destruction of the intervertebral discs occurs, as a result of which they are “squeezed out” between the lumen of neighboring vertebrae and form a so-called hernia.
The hernial sac often squeezes the nerve roots, which extend from the spinal cord located in the thickness of the spine. In this case, vessels and surrounding soft tissues are damaged.
The appearance of neurological and circulatory disorders indicates a neglected case of osteochondrosis, often leading to disability.
Why does osteochondrosis occur?
The main reason for the development of grade 3 osteochondrosis is the natural “aging” of the intervertebral discs.
However, such processes can accelerate:
- Genetics (cases of illness in the family).
- Exchange, infectious, hormonal and other diseases.
- Back injuries.
- Pathology of the spinal column (postural curvature, increased mobility of the vertebrae, congenital malformations).
- Excessive load on the spine (overweight, weight lifting, high physical activity).
- Weakness of the back muscles (low mobility, abrupt cessation of training).
- Deformations of the feet (clubfoot, flat feet, etc.).
Manifestations of osteochondrosis of the 3rd degree vary depending on the area of damage.
A hernial protrusion between the cervical vertebrae often provokes acute pain in the neck area of a burning or stitching character. Soreness often spreads to the back of the head and forehead (as in a “helmet”). Migraines, imbalances, vision, or hearing may occur.
In the area of the neck and arm (on the affected side), “false sensations” of burning or tingling of the skin often appear. In the marked areas, temperature and pain sensitivity often fall out.
The muscle cords of the neck and upper limb lose their tone and strength. Movement in the hand weakens (paresis) or disappears completely (paralysis).
Often there are so-called ischemic attacks associated with a sharp violation of blood flow in the brain. They are caused by compression of the hernia of the vertebral arteries that supply blood to the brain. Typically, patients complain of dizziness, partial loss of vision, nausea, speech impairment and swallowing.
Be careful! An ischemic attack can be a harbinger of a stroke. See a doctor immediately!
In case of damage to the cervical spine, drop attacks sometimes occur: sudden falls due to muscle weakness throughout the body. They arise due to a sharp deviation of the head back and are independently resolved.
Osteochondrosis of the thoracic vertebrae of the 3rd degree is considered a rare occurrence. So, the disease is accompanied by severe pain in the center of the back, which spread along the ribs to the sternum. The pain syndrome is often similar to that in diseases of the internal organs: heart (heart attack), lungs (pneumonia), esophagus (heartburn), stomach (gastritis / ulcer), etc.
Often the skin sensitivity in the body area disappears, the muscular frame of the back and chest weakens. Sometimes breathing disorders (shortness of breath, inability to take a deep breath) and indomitable hiccups appear.
Damage to the lower back is usually accompanied by a noticeable pain syndrome, which often causes patients to bend. At the same time, it is impossible to straighten your back due to pain and muscle spasm.
Along with this, the sensation of pain and temperature disappears both in the lumbar region, and in the buttocks and lower extremities (from the lesion side). The muscles of the legs weaken, their tone decreases. Movements in them may worsen or disappear altogether.
In some cases, not only nerve roots are pinched, but also the terminal section of the spinal cord. A similar pathology is manifested by unbearable pain extending to both legs. The sensitivity of the skin of the inner thighs disappears, the muscles of both lower extremities weaken (up to complete immobilization). Incontinence of urine and feces, as well as impotence appear.
Typically, grade 3 osteochondrosis is diagnosed by a neurologist or vertebrologist by prescribing a spine x-ray in two projections. For an additional assessment of the state of the nerve roots and spinal cord, magnetic resonance imaging is performed.
You can directly visualize the intervertebral disc using discography. The latter is the usual radiography, but previously a contrast agent is introduced into the thickness of the disk.
In order to study the conductivity of nerve fibers, electromyography or electroneurography is used.
How is it treated?
The goal of helping with grade 3 osteochondrosis is to get rid of pain, stabilize the patient’s condition, and then prepare for surgical treatment. Patients are provided with peace, and the affected area is immobilized (Shants collar or strict bed rest).
Shishkevich Vladimir, orthopedic and traumatologist, project editor-in-chief ExpertNews.
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To get rid of pain, inflammation and swelling, Lornoxicam, Troxerutin, Nimesulide and Diosmin are used. In case of intense pain, blockages are prescribed with an anesthetic (procaine) and steroidal anti-inflammatory hormone (hydrocortisone).
If the pathology is accompanied by muscle spasm, muscle relaxants are used – Tizanidine, Midocalm or Tolperisone. Pentoxifylline, Cinnarizine and Nicergoline are used to normalize blood flow in the brain (with cervical osteochondrosis) or in other areas.
In order to protect the nervous tissue from oxygen starvation and energy deficiency, neuroprotective therapy is prescribed: Gliatilin, Piracetam and Mildronate.
Other methods of treatment – physiotherapy, massage and physiotherapy exercises – with osteochondrosis of 3 degrees are ineffective.
Surgical treatment is used in patients when conservative therapy has not yielded results, as well as with compression by the hernial sac of the spinal cord. As a rule, an operation is reduced to excision of a hernia or elimination of compression of the brain. Subsequently, the intervertebral disc is replaced with an artificial one, while stabilizing the affected segment of the spine.
Prevention of osteochondrosis of the 3rd degree consists in an active and healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet (with a sufficient content of collagen protein), a sufficient motor regime and the rejection of bad habits.
Prevention of the development of the disease also includes:
- Control over people from the hereditary risk group (cases of illness in the family).
- Diagnosis and treatment of metabolic, infectious, hormonal and other diseases.
- Prevention of back injuries.
- Correction of pathologies of the spinal column (postural curvature, increased mobility of the vertebrae, congenital malformations).
- Avoidance of increased load on the spine (weight loss to normal, refusal to lift weights, prevention of excessive physical activity).
- Prevention of back muscle weakness (physical exercise).
- Correction of foot deformity (clubfoot, flat feet, varus / valgus curvatures, etc.)
Remember, grade 3 osteochondrosis often leads to disability. Therefore, if you detect symptoms of pathology, immediately consult a specialist!