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Osteochondrosis: Causes, Stages & Treatment

Osteochondrosis: Causes, Stages & Treatment

Osteochondrosis: Causes, Stages & Treatment

What is osteochondrosis? In the original sense of the word, osteochondrosis is a disorder of the transformation of cartilage cells into bone cells during bone formation (osteochondrosis dissecans). In the case of osteochondrosis of the vertebral column, this syndrome is understood to be a mostly overload-induced change in the intervertebral disc cartilage and the adjacent vertebral body. It is also called intervertebral osteochondrosis.

OCD: Osteochondrosis as a bone formation disorder

Osteochondrosis with the importance of an osteochondritis dissecans ( OCD) due to a bone formation disorder below the articular cartilage occurs mainly in the knee joint, the upper ankle joint and the elbow joint. The causes are not fully understood. It is, however, certain that initially, bony circulation disturbances are present beneath the cartilage.

The bone tissue gradually dissolves. First, the cartilage is still well supplied with the particular fluid, but in the further course it changes and softens. The cartilaginous covering may tear or cartilage-bone pieces may become detached into the joint.

Osteochondrosis of the spine: causes

As a result of deficiencies, for example by a spinal column curvature (scoliosis), the intervertebral disc is loaded on one side for one year, changes and becomes worn. Their shock-absorber effect lags, it loses its height. The bones of the vertebral bodies are more strongly loaded and the vertebral body becomes unstable. Bony sidewalls (spondylophytes) are meant to intercept the increased pressure, a process known as spondylosis.

Normally, the base plate and cover plate of the vertebra adjacent to the “diseased” disc are a barrier between the bone and the disc. As a result of wear, enzymes try to dissolve the gland core of the disc. This also leads to metabolic products in the adjacent vertebral bone, which reacts with an extremely painful oedema, ie a kind of bone swelling. The spine loses its natural S-shape and increasingly stiffens.

Osteochondrosis: Course and stages

The course of the intervertebral osteochondrosis is divided into three stages:

  • Modic I means oedema formation
  • Modic II means greasy degeneration of the bone
  • Modic III refers to bone sclerosis, ie hardening of the bone

Back pain is unavoidable

When vertebral joints are affected by arthrosis due to wear, they are called spondylarthrosis. Not only malfunctions but also previous disc as well as intervertebral disc operations, rarely also inflammation of the disc, can lead to osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine or osteochondrosis of the cervical spine.

Frequently, the bulging disc presses on a nerve (root compression) that is close to the vertebral joints and causes severe pain and/or paralysis. Also in an osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, spondylosis of the vertebrae lead to a narrowing of the nerve outlet openings. Back pain, as well as tensions, are unavoidable.

Osteochondrosis: treatment and therapy

An osteochondrosis therapy for osteochondrosis of the intervertebral artery is strongly dependent on the individual findings. Pain, cortisone-free inflammation inhibitors, as well as muscle-relaxing drugs, can be used against pain. Once acute pain has been alleviated, physiotherapy can improve the mechanical relationships between the disc and the vertebral body.

In the case of an osteochondrosis of the LWS, it is still possible in an early phase to prevent the progress of osteochondrosis by means of consistent muscle build-up in the abdomen and back as well as by postural training. Physical measures such as warmth in the form of red light, mud, massages or electrotherapy are also helpful. In advanced osteochondrosis, the therapy can consist of a combination of support corset (orthosis) and muscle build-up.

If there is an osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, the therapy of osteochondrosis is more difficult. It is, however, possible to relax the tense muscles by physiotherapy. Existing nerve irritations can be reduced by targeted pain medication injections. In osteochondrosis of the LWS and osteochondrosis of the cervical spine, a stabilization operation, as well as an implantation of an intervertebral disc prosthesis, are possible in the advanced stage.


Treatment of osteochondritis dissecans depends on the size of the changes. First of all, the joint must be immobilized as early as possible, ie no sports and the use of forearm braces are important. If no improvement occurs or if the symptoms are stronger, osteochondrosis requires a joint reflection and an operation with bone and/or cartilage cell transplant.

Scientifically Proven: Disc Prolapse: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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