Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis is a condition characterized by ossification of tendons and ligaments resulting in a stiff back

Despite many scientific advances in medicine over the past 25 years, the causes of back pain remain a relative mystery.

Fortunately, most people who experience a back pain episode will improve in a short period of time in spite of any intervention. However, some of these back pain episodes can become chronic in nature and have a profound affect on the person’s quality of life.

In this article, we present a condition seen primarily in older males. The condition is called diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis or DISH.

DISH is characterized by the ossification (turning to bone) of tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues around the spine resulting in progressive stiffness of the back.

Here is an excellent overview of DISH from the Mayo Clinic along with a free patient guide that provides treatment options.

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis

Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) is calcification or a bony hardening of ligaments in areas where they attach to your spine.

Also known as Forestier’s disease, diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis causes stiffness in your upper back and may also affect your neck and lower back. Some people experience diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis beyond the spine in areas such as their heels, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and hands.

Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis often causes no symptoms, though stiffness and pain along affected ligaments can occur. You may not need treatment for diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis if you don’t have symptoms, though physical therapy may help you maintain range of motion in your affected joints.

The signs and symptoms you experience depend on which part of your body is affected by diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. The upper portion of your back (thoracic spine) is most commonly affected. Signs and symptoms may include:

    Stiffness. Stiffness may be most noticeable in the morning.
    Pain. You may feel pain when someone presses on the affected area. Not everyone with diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis experiences pain.
    Loss of range of motion. Loss of lateral range of motion may be most noticeable. You flex your spine laterally when you do side stretches, for example.
    Difficulty swallowing or a hoarse voice. You may experience these symptoms if you have diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis in your neck (cervical spine).

When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have persistent pain or stiffness in any joint or in your back.
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Do you have questions about additional causes of back pain or more on diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis? We have put together a Patient Guide that discusses DISH in more detail. If you would like access to this informative and easy to understand Patient Guide, just click this link and we’ll make sure you get your copy today. Patients’ Guide To Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis

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