Osteochondrosis is a disease of the bones. There are different types of the disease, in which, for example, the bones decompose or an unnaturally large layer of cartilage forms. Wear and tear is often the cause of the disease, which manifests itself in severe pain.
What is osteochondrosis?
The term osteochondrosis refers to a so-called degenerative bone disease. There are different types of this disease. The most common is osteochondrosis intervertebralis (a deterioration of the spine that leads to hardening of the bone tissue). See usvsukenglish for What does the abbreviation DM2 stand for.
Basically, osteochondrosis manifests itself through joint or back pain, which gets worse as the disease progresses. The disease can have a variety of causes, including improper stress on the joints and insufficient movement. Advanced age and risk factors such as being overweight favor the development of osteochondrosis.
Once a corresponding change in the bone tissue has occurred, it can no longer be reversed. Accordingly, therapy only includes the alleviation of the symptoms, which can take place, for example, with medication or surgery.
In many cases, the causes of osteochondrosis lie in a natural wear and tear that occurs with increasing age. At a young age, stress (including excessive or incorrect stress) can be absorbed.
Later, however, there is an increasing weakening of the bones, cartilage and muscles. As a result, small pieces of bone become detached and the height of the intervertebral spaces changes (especially in the case of intervertebral osteochondrosis). Ultimately, this leads to movement pain that gets worse over time. It is often also permanent incorrect loads that can significantly increase the risk of osteochondrosis.
Under certain circumstances, a rheumatic disease can also be the reason for osteochondrosis. In the less common form of osteochondritis dissecans, the body is unable to convert its own cartilage cells into bone material as intended, which leads to strong cartilage in the joints.
Typical Symptoms & Signs
- joint pain
- back pain
- bone pain
Diagnosis & History
Osteochondrosis is usually only noticed by those affected when significant pain has already developed. If a doctor is consulted as a result, an X-ray is taken in addition to a detailed discussion with the patient.
In many cases, this can already provide clear information as to whether the vertebrae or joints are worn and, in the case of intervertebral osteochondrosis, the typical height changes in the intervertebral spaces have formed. If the disease is in an early stage or if no clear statements can be made about the corresponding changes, magnetic resonance imaging (MRT) can also be performed.
If osteochondrosis remains untreated, the pain and associated restrictions on movement will increase as the disease progresses, which can significantly reduce the quality of life of those affected.
The further complications and symptoms of osteochondrosis depend very much on the cause and the severity of the disease. As a rule, however, those affected suffer from various complaints of the bones and cartilage. Due to the osteochondrosis, those affected primarily suffer from severe pain, which occurs primarily in the joints. This leads to considerable restrictions in everyday life and in the life of the patient, so that they are dependent on the help of other people.
Pain in the back or in the bones themselves can also become noticeable and significantly reduce the quality of life of those affected. If the disease occurs in children, there can be significant delays in the child’s development, so that these patients are dependent on walking aids or other people even in adulthood.
As a rule, osteochondrosis cannot be treated. Those affected are dependent on various therapies that can alleviate and limit the symptoms. With the help of heat treatments or massages, the quality of life can be increased again. The life expectancy itself is usually not reduced.
When should you go to the doctor?
If bone thickening and other signs of osteochondrosis are noticed, a doctor should be consulted immediately. The disease can be treated relatively well if diagnosed early, but it always requires close monitoring by the doctor. Therefore, the doctor should be consulted at the first sign of illness. At the latest, if movement restrictions or pain occur as a result of the osteochondrosis, a doctor’s visit is indicated. People who have a history of bone disease or who have a deformity are particularly at risk.
People with congenital bone malformations should also see a doctor if the symptoms mentioned occur. Osteochondrosis is treated by an orthopedist. Further contacts can be specialists in internal medicine as well as physiotherapists, sports physicians and specialists in bone diseases. If the symptoms are severe, surgical treatment is necessary. The patient has to stay in the hospital for a few days and then have regular check-ups in order to rule out serious symptoms and complications or to be able to identify and treat them at an early stage.
Treatment & Therapy
If osteochondrosis has been diagnosed, the doctor treating you will initiate appropriate therapy. Once the bone tissue in the spine or joints has been damaged, it cannot be completely reversed.
Early detection of the disease is all the more important in the case of osteochondrosis. In most cases, the symptoms, i.e. the pain, are relieved as part of medical treatment, for which purpose appropriate medication is administered. In addition to painkillers, muscle relaxants can also be used. Massages, heat or electrical stimulation applications also contribute to reducing the symptoms, as do certain physiotherapy exercises.
Under certain circumstances, an operative intervention can take place in the case of advanced osteochondrosis. In this way, hardened cartilage tissue can be removed or, if necessary, a disc or joint prosthesis can be inserted. As a result, incorrect and overloading should be avoided in any case.
Outlook & Forecast
The possible prognosis in the presence of osteochondrosis is defined by the time at which the diagnosis is made. If diagnosed early, the chances of resolving the sequelae are better. As a rule, the treatment becomes much more complex with a later diagnosis. The chances of recovery are significantly worse.
The reason for this lies in the nature of the disease. Osteochondrosis causes curvature of the spine. Cartilaginous parts of the joint change. If osteochondrosis is left untreated for a long time, the prognosis is not positive. Only if the disease is recognized at an early stage and treated immediately does it have a very good to good chance of recovery. Therapy options change as valuable time elapses. The chances of recovery deteriorate.
The problem with osteochondrosis is that established tissue irritation or ossification does not regress. The longer the disease progresses, the less doctors can do for those affected. The second limiting factor is the place where osteochondrosis has manifested itself. Experience has shown that osteochondrosis in the lumbar region heals more quickly than bone degeneration that has developed in the cervical spine.
After the diagnosis, those affected must avoid everything that aggravates the consequences of the disease. In an advanced stage of osteochondrosis, the spine often has to be stiffened. Mobility is severely restricted postoperatively.
Osteochondrosis can be prevented to a certain extent by paying attention to a balanced diet rich in vitamin D. Sufficient exercise strengthens the muscles and also prevents wear and tear. However, excessive or incorrect strain on the back and/or the joints should be avoided at all costs. Participation in a back school, for example, can help to maintain the correct posture over the long term and thus prevent painful symptoms from developing.
In most cases, the measures and the options for direct follow-up care for osteochondrosis prove to be relatively difficult, so ideally the person affected should contact a doctor very early on. The sooner a doctor is consulted, the better the further progression of the disease. Self-healing cannot occur.
The further course depends very much on the time of diagnosis and also on the severity of the disease. Most patients are dependent on measures of physiotherapy and physiotherapy in order to relieve the symptoms permanently and correctly. Many of the exercises from such therapies can also be repeated at home.
The support and care provided by one’s own family and relatives is also very important, as this can also prevent depression and other psychological upsets. A healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet and light physical activity also has a positive effect on the further course of the disease. In doing so, mistakes or overloading of the affected regions must be avoided at all costs. As a rule, osteochondrosis does not reduce the life expectancy of the person affected.
You can do that yourself
Osteochondrosis patients are often restricted in their ability to move. The main goal of therapy is to relieve pain, using analgesics and natural painkillers such as peppermint oil or cloves. Regular intake of the prescribed and self-selected preparations is essential to soothe the muscles and relieve chronic pain.
Complete bed rest is recommended for severe illnesses . Physiotherapy can also be effective for osteochondrosis. Patients can also do heat or electrotherapy in combination or as an alternative. Through moderate movement and activation of the joints, a targeted attempt is made to maintain the freedom of movement of the affected body regions. In addition, exercise strengthens the surrounding muscle groups, which have to compensate for the limitations.
A visit to the back school is recommended for training the back. There, the patients learn how to cultivate a better posture and analyze situations in which incorrect stress can occur. Training the back is an important part of the therapy and can be done either with a physiotherapist or independently at home. Which self-help measures make sense in detail should be discussed with the responsible doctor.