Degenerative disc disease is a back injury precipitated and aggravated by physical job duties. Pain in the center of the low back is often the first symptom and it may worsen after heavy physical activity or staying in one posture for a long time. The back may also begin to feel stiff. Resting the back eases pain. At first, symptoms only last a few days but as time goes on it becomes persistent. Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease back pain often comes and goes over the years. Doctors call this recurring back pain. Each time it strikes, the pain may seem worse than the time before. Eventually the pain may spread into the buttocks or thighs, and it may take longer for the pain to subside.
How do doctors diagnose work-related degenerative disc disease?
Diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical exam. The doctor asks questions about your symptoms and how your problem is affecting your daily activities. The doctor should ask what positions or activities make your symptoms worse or better. Tell the doctor if your job duties make the back pain and stiffness worse.
Then the doctor does a physical examination by checking your posture and the amount of movement in your low back. Your doctor checks to see which back movements cause pain or other symptoms. Muscle strength and reflexes are also tested.
Doctors rely on the history and physical exam to determine which treatments will help the most. X-rays are rarely ordered on the first doctor visit because over 30 percent of low back X-rays show abnormalities from degeneration, even in people who aren’t having symptoms.
However, if symptoms are severe and aren’t going away, the doctor may order an X-ray. The test can show if one or more discs has started to collapse. It can also show if there are bone spurs in the vertebrae and facet joints. Bone spurs are small points of bone that form with degeneration.
When more information is needed, the doctor may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. The MRI shows soft tissues of the body and is helpful for showing if intervertebral discs are damaged or if a nerve is being pinched. Discogram or an EMG may also be utilized to diagnose a back injury.
The attorneys and paralegals get the best workers compensation settlements in cases where the MRI documents degenerative disc disease and the doctor connects it to a worker’s physical job duties or a specific accident. We help compile a detailed job description noting the weight lifted and repetitive movements, the number of times an activity is performed daily and the number of years a person has done this physical job.