Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis

Degenerative Disc disease is commonly diagnosed using a three step process. A detailed history of the patient’s pain is taken. This should include what happened to cause the pain and symptoms, what activities cause the pain to worsen, and if any positions increase or decrease the amount of pain.

A physical exam of the patient is then performed. During the examination the doctor will physically manipulate the patient to find signs or symptoms of degenerative disc disease. The patient will be checked for tenderness in the neck or lower back, as well as in the arms or legs. During the examination the patient’s range of motion and muscle strength are also evaluated.

Diagnostic Tests for Degenerative Disc Disease

If your physician suspects that degenerative disc disease is what is causing your pain and other symptoms, they will order an MRI test to be performed. The MRI test will give a high detail visualization of the vertebral disc as well as other surrounding structures. The MRI test may also rule out other conditions that may cause the same pain and symptoms. Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment may begin.

Degenerative disc disease is more commonly found in the lower back (lumbar region of the spine) and the neck (cervical region of the spine), but may also occur in any other area of the spine. The human spine is comprised of alternating vertebrae and discs which act as cushions with most of the pressure and stress of everyday movements being absorbed by them. Vertebral discs play a considerable role in our spinal anatomy. Without them, the vertebrae would be unable to absorb stresses, become unstable, and would eventually be unable to bend or flex.

Conditions Related to Disc Degeneration

Disc degeneration is the beginning of what has been termed by many "The Degenerative Cascade". It can lead to several other spinal conditions as the discs continue to deteriorate. Spinal Bone Spurs, Herniated Discs, and Spinal Stenosis are just a few of the more common conditions that may result from degenerative disc disease.

Severe degenerative disc disease can limit your range of motion, as well as cause pain from micro motion that occurs in your spine as the disc no longer performs its job properly. As your intervertebral discs lose water, flexibility, and height, your vertebrae lose their cushion and begin to rub against each other. It is, therefore, very important to identify the symptoms of degenerative disc disease and catch this condition early.