Tools And Methods For Confirming A Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis


By Patrick Foote

A degenerative disc disease diagnosis typically begins at home. After all, unless youve experienced unexplained back or neck pain, or tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness in the extremities, why would you suspect that one or more of your intervertebral discs has begun to deteriorate? So, it starts with you. Take stock of your physical well-being. Does your lower back hurt when you make certain movements? Is there a nagging ache in the region of your right hamstring that just wont go away? Is the outside of your left foot numb for no apparent reason? Have any of these (or other) symptoms lasted for more than a couple of days? If so, the time has come to visit your doctor.

What a Doctor Will Do First

If this is your first visit to this particular doctor, you will more than likely be asked to fill out a medical history form. This will help your doctor determine if you or a member of your family has experienced a particular condition in the past which is a pretty strong clue indicating that you might experience it again. If this is not your first visit to this particular doctor, chances are you already filled out the long form that asks you to check off different medical conditions. If so, you will be able to skip forward to the next set of diagnostic methods and tools. These include:

Conversation you will be asked questions about the location, duration, and severity of pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness.

Physical exam you will be given tests that check range of motion and muscle strength.

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Neurological exam you will be given reflex response testing to determine your level of sensory and motor function.

X-ray you will undergo routine imaging to determine the potential cause and severity of your back or neck pain and to rule out fractures or other bone maladies.

Additional Medical Imaging Might Be Needed

If a degenerative disc disease diagnosis still has not been confirmed after the steps above, your doctor might request other tests. These include additional medical imaging tests that show more detail than the typical X-ray:

MRI magnetic resonance imaging produces clear pictures of the interior of the body; usually used in orthopedics to confirm or refute the results of an X-ray.

CT scan computed tomography uses computers and X-rays to produce cross-sectional images of the body.

Discography a contrast dye is injected into an intervertebral disc that is believed to be causing back or neck pain. The dye distinguishes damaged areas from healthy areas of the disc, which can be seen on an X-ray.

Myelogram similar to a discography, contrast dye is used to detect damaged tissue within other portions of the spine in addition to the discs.

EMG in electromyography, nerve and muscle activity is monitored using needle-like electrodes.

After The Diagnosis Is Confirmed

Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, you will more than likely work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan. This can be as simple as over-the-counter pain medication, or as complex as spinal fusion surgery. Fortunately for most people who experience nerve compression associated with degenerative disc disease, surgery is rarely necessary. The vast majority of people with disc degeneration can manage their symptoms using a combination of medicine, physical therapy, cortisone injections, stretching, and alternative treatment methods such as chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture. Persistence is key; the effectiveness of each conservative method will vary from person to person, and it may take weeks or even months to find the right combination of treatments.

About the Author: Patrick Foote is the Director of eBusiness at Laser Spine Institute, the leader in endoscopic spine surgery. Laser Spine Institute specializes in safe and effective outpatient procedures for

degenerative disc disease

and several other spinal conditions.

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