Clinical description of osteochondrosis of the cervical spine

The doctor examines the patient with cervical osteochondrosis

Cervical osteochondrosis implies degenerative disorders of the intervertebral disc. The disease is accompanied by a complex of different symptoms. The clinical picture develops as the disease progresses - each stage corresponds to specific symptoms and the intensity of their manifestations.

Symptoms of cervical osteochondrosis by degree (stage)

Osteochondrosis is a progressive disease, so the clinical picture develops gradually. This refers to the number of symptoms of the disease and the intensity of their manifestations. In total, there are 4 stages of the disease.

The first stageosteochondrosis of the cervical spine is early. Changes occur mainly at the biochemical level. The stage of the disease is accompanied by mild or asymptomatic symptoms, hence it is called preclinical. It has the following features:

  • discomfort appears in the neck, which can spread to the arms and shoulders, sometimes the sensation becoming painful;
  • headache;
  • motor activity in the cervical spine is slightly limited;
  • there is a rapidly passing visual disturbance;
  • decreased collar zone skin sensitivity;
  • Symptoms increase with head tilt.

The early stages of osteochondrosis are ignored by many patients. Symptoms of emerging illness are often associated with age, fatigue, and stress.

Second stageCervical osteochondrosis is characterized by the development of protrusion. This stage involves dehydration of the intervertebral disc, a decrease in its elasticity and height, and the appearance of cracks in the annulus fibrosus. In this case, the disc inflates into the intervertebral duct.

The stage of the disease is characterized by the following symptoms:

Neck pain with osteochondrosis
  • severe neck pain, fractures may occur;
  • Painful sensation of shooting naturally, radiating beneath the scapula;
  • pain increases by holding a prolonged head in one position;
  • significant loss of sensitivity to the skin of the shoulders and arms;
  • frequent and prolonged headaches;
  • visual disturbances, flies in the eyes;
  • tinnitus, ringing;
  • muscle weakness in the upper limbs;
  • decreased clarity of tendon reflexes;
  • development of insomnia, more rarely - other sleep disorders;
  • there is a lump in the throat, it is difficult to swallow.

The second stage of cervical osteochondrosis manifests itself clearly, so many patients see a doctor at this stage. In this case, conservative treatment is sufficient.

Stage threeThe disease is characterized by destruction of the annulus fibrosus and the formation of intervertebral hernias. At this stage, the spine is deformed, the vertebrae are replaced, with the background of weak fixation, their subluxation and dislocation develop.

The stage of the disease is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • severe sharp pain that can spread to the heart;
  • violation of the sensitivity of the skin partially or completely on the back of the head, shoulders, arms;
  • paresis, paralysis of the upper limbs;
  • absence of almost complete tendon reflex.

Finally,fourth stageosteochondrosis involves the replacement of intervertebral disc tissue with scar tissue. At this stage, remission of the disease often occurs, but pathological changes also spread to other spinal structures, therefore, clinical signs of different degrees of osteochondrosis can be seen simultaneously.

Common signs of cervical osteochondrosis

The clinical picture of cervical osteochondrosis is quite varied. This is due to disrupted blood flow, involvement of the peripheral nervous system in pathological processes, possible compression and impaired spinal integrity. Against this background, various symptoms develop, but some common signs of the disease are distinguished.


These symptoms in cervical osteochondrosis are the main ones. The main localization of the painful sensation is the neck. Headaches and facial expressions were also observed. Painful sensations can radiate to various parts of the body.

This pathological feature depends on the affected area:

  • if the C4-C5 disc is affected, pain is radiated to the outer surface of the shoulder and the middle part of the scapula;
  • with disc lesions C5-C6, a painful sensation spreading to the lateral surfaces of the forearms, hands, thumbs and index fingers;
  • C6-C7 pathology is accompanied by a painful sensation in the back of the shoulders and forearms, which extends to the index and middle fingers;
  • if the C7-Th1 disc is involved, pain radiates along the inner surface of the forearm and hand to the ring finger and little finger.

Decreases sensitivity and reflexes

Decreased sensitivity to cervical osteochondrosis

These symptoms occur against the background of violations of nerve root preservation. Painful sensations may not exist. The characteristics of decreased sensitivity and reflexes depend on the localization of pathological changes:

  • When the C4-C5 disc is affected, the sensitivity at the top of the outer shoulder decreases. There is a decrease in reflexes of the biceps muscle.
  • C5-C6 disc osteochondrosis is accompanied by decreased lateral surface sensitivity of the forearms, hands, thumbs and index fingers. The reflex of the biceps muscle is also reduced.
  • Disc pathology C6-C7 reduces the sensitivity of the index and middle fingers, back of the hands and forearms. There is a decrease in reflexes of the triceps muscle.
  • The defeat of the C7-Th1 disc is accompanied by a decrease in the sensitivity of the ring finger, little finger, the inner surface of the hand and forearm. Reflexes are not affected.


These symptoms often arise in the early stages of cervical osteochondrosis and are one of the first manifestations of the disease. Dizziness is caused by a decrease in the amount of oxygen supplied to the semicircular canal of the inner ear. They are located in the brain and provide balance. Simultaneously with dizziness, there may be student fluctuations in a horizontal or vertical direction.


With osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, blood flow through the blood vessels is disrupted. This causes nausea and discharge. These symptoms often occur when turning and tilting the head, and sometimes during normal walking. Symptoms can grow and achieve uncontrollable vomiting.

Against the background of these signs, the following possible consequences are possible:

  • decreased appetite;
  • weight loss;
  • Malnutrition, food dystrophy.

Lack of air

With osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, frenic nerve irritation is possible, which regulates the depth and frequency of breathing. With this defeat of the nerves, a person has difficulty breathing, unable to breathe completely. Against this background, there is a lack of oxygen, which is fraught with the development of shortness of breath and even shortness of breath.

At night, especially if the head is uncomfortable, there is a risk of shortness of breath. Usually this attack is accompanied by snoring. In the absence of fresh air, hypoxia develops, against the background of the following symptoms:

  • fatigue even after sleep;
  • feel sick;
  • weakness;
  • weakness of attention and memory.

Hearing, noise and ringing in the ears

Against the background of circulatory disorders in cervical osteochondrosis, the vestibular apparatus suffers. This causes deep ear dysfunction and provokes cochlear syndrome, also called cochlea. It has the following symptoms:

  • tinnitus;
  • ring;
  • General hearing loss.

A characteristic feature of cervical osteochondrosis is the occurrence of tinitus with a prolonged background of forced position.


These symptoms occur against the background of blood flow disorders caused by cervical osteochondrosis. Usually, blood constantly travels through the cerebral arteries. With osteochondrosis, the process of vertebral bones deforms and irritates nerve endings. This causes significant arterial spasm, with the background of temporary blood flow stopping, and the person suddenly loses consciousness. Fainting usually lasts no more than 2-3 minutes.

Discomfort in the throat is a symptom of cervical osteochondrosis

Pharynx symptoms

This manifestation of cervical osteochondrosis indicates various pathological signs:

  • sweat;
  • foreign object sensations;
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • dry throat;
  • itchy sensation.

Pharyngeal symptoms develop against the background of neurovascular trunk disorders, the source of which is the spinal cord. When they appear, a differential diagnosis is needed, as a similar clinical picture is characteristic of inflammatory and tumor processes.

Visual impairment

Disorders such as cervical osteochondrosis often occur against the background of low blood pressure or atherosclerosis of the arterial brain. Visual impairment can manifest itself as follows:

  • sheets in front of the eyes, objects visible, as if in a fog;
  • decreased visual acuity;
  • dots blink in front of eyes;
  • loses focus on a particular subject.

A special feature of vision impairment against the background of cervical osteochondrosis is the lack of effects from special gymnastics for the eyes or the use of glasses.

Temperature change

With cervical osteochondrosis, such abnormalities occur at the local level. This means hyperemia in the pathological area, i. e. an increase in skin temperature.

Cervical osteochondrosis syndrome

The symptoms that accompany cervical osteochondrosis are quite common and include many other diseases of various organs and systems of the body. To facilitate diagnosis, clinical signs are grouped into groups called syndromes:

  • Cervicalgia. This syndrome is reflexive and involves neck pain. This may indicate damage to the spine or muscles in this area.
  • Cervicocranialgia. This syndrome is also reflexive. This means a painful sensation in the cervical-occipital area and occurs against a background of trauma, inflammation or degenerative changes.
  • Cervicobrachialgia. This reflex syndrome involves neck pain radiating to the arm. It occurs against the background of compression of the nerve roots of the cervical spine. With osteochondrosis, this syndrome is accompanied by muscle tonic, vegetative-vascular or neurodistrophic manifestations.
  • Radicular syndrome. It is also called in another way - cervical radiculitis. It involves a creepy feeling in the affected area, tingling in the fingers and forearms, mild swelling that spreads to several fingers (depending on the location of the lesion).
  • Irritating reflex syndrome. This implies cervicocranialgia. Sharp painful sensation and burning, can radiate to the shoulders, chest. Symptoms increase with changes in head position, sharp turns, sneezing.
  • Vertebral artery syndrome. This symptom complex includes headache, discomfort with certain movements, imbalance, hearing loss and visual acuity, weakness, nausea and loss of consciousness. Throbbing headache, can be persistent or paroxysmal.
  • Heart syndrome. The clinical picture resembles angina pectoris. Long-term pain suddenly appears, which increases with the background of sharp neck movements, coughing, sneezing. It does not disappear with heart medication, and the electrocardiogram does not show abnormal blood flow to the heart muscle. The clinical picture may be augmented with tachycardia and extrasystole.
  • Vegetative-distonic syndrome. Occurs with subluxation with C1 vertebral displacement. This syndrome usually shows neurological symptoms of disturbed cerebral blood flow - muscle spasms, decreased intracranial pressure, dizziness, decreased visual acuity, fainting, headache, nausea.

Cervical osteochondrosis is accompanied by various symptoms. The characteristics of clinical manifestations and their intensity are highly dependent on the stage of the disease, which indicates specific pathological changes. Several signs of the disease are combined into a syndrome - this group of symptoms facilitates diagnosis.