Lumbar degenerative disc disease diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical exam. The doctor will ask questions about symptoms and how they affect one’s daily activities. The doctor will also want to know what positions or activities make the symptoms worse or better. It is at this stage during the appointment when the injured should tell the doctor how his work duties affect or aggravate his back or leg pain, if that is the case.
Then the doctor does a physical examination by checking posture and the amount of movement in the low back. The doctor checks to see which back movements cause pain or other symptoms. Skin sensation, 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 for this problem. This is 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 do not go 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 machine uses magnetic waves rather than X-rays to show the soft tissues of the body. It is helpful for showing if the tissues in the disc are able to absorb water and whether there are cracks inside the disc. It can also show if there are problems in other soft tissues, such as the spinal nerves.
Discography can help with the diagnosis. This is a specialized X-ray test in which dye is injected into one or more discs. The dye is seen on X-ray and can give some information about the health of the disc or discs. This test may be done when the surgeon is considering surgery, since it can help determine which disc is causing the symptoms.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office attorneys represent workers with lumbar degenerative disc disease in workers compensation claims. Circling back to the initial appointment conversation, it is critical to the case that a complete and honest documentation of facts come out. The doctor may not specifically ask about work, it is up to the injured worker patient to bring it up how the job duties affect your low back and leg pain. Physical labor at work can contribute to the causation of DDD and the doctor needs to know that.