A diagnosis of degenerative disc disease starts with an extensive medical history. This will include questions about:
– symptoms (past and present)
– the pattern of change in those symptoms
– past injuries or illnesses
– treatment or intervention for past illnesses and injuries
– descriptions of current and past activities
During the course of the examination, the doctor will test for range of motion and look for areas up and down the spine that are tender or that are exhibiting nerve-related damage.
There will also be an assessment of sensations in other areas of the body to detect the presence of:
– tingling or a “pins and needles” feeling
– any numbness that may be present
– weaknesses and diminished reflexes
Other conditions like infections, tumors, fractures, strains, and muscle injuries will be ruled out, often by the use of imaging tests including X-rays and MRIs.
When a determination of degenerative disc disease is made, courses of treatment and intervention will be discussed.
Strategies to cope with disc disease always begin with a conservative approach.
It’s important to remember that flare-ups of disc pain are highly episodic and heavily influenced by the presence of inflammation in the body. Early treatment will focus on coping strategies and pain relief with an eye toward behaviour modification and exercise to prevent future incidents.
Only in rarely and unusually severe cases is surgery recommended for degenerative disc disease, and then only after all other avenues have been fully explored.