Understanding Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH): Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Understanding Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH): Causes, Symptoms, and Management ?

Understanding Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH): Causes, Symptoms, and Management

Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH), although sounding complex, is a relatively common condition that affects the spine. While it may not be as widely recognized as other musculoskeletal disorders, its impact on those who have it can be significant. In this blog post, we’ll delve into what DISH is, its causes, symptoms, and how it can be managed.

What is DISH?
DISH, also known as Forestier’s disease, is a condition characterized by the abnormal formation of bone along the ligaments of the spine. This excessive bone growth can lead to stiffness and reduced mobility in the affected area. While DISH primarily affects the spine, it can also occur in other areas of the body where ligaments attach to bone, such as the shoulders, elbows, knees, and heels.

The exact cause of DISH is not fully understood. However, several factors may contribute to its development. Age is a significant risk factor, with DISH being more common in older adults, particularly those over the age of 50. Additionally, genetics may play a role, as DISH tends to run in families. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing DISH include obesity, diabetes, and certain medications.

The symptoms of DISH can vary from person to person and depend on the severity of the condition. Common symptoms include stiffness and pain in the affected area, especially in the spine. Some individuals may also experience difficulty bending or twisting their spine, leading to a reduced range of motion. In severe cases, DISH can cause complications such as difficulty swallowing or breathing if the bone growth affects the structures of the neck.

Diagnosing DISH typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. X-rays are often used to visualize the abnormal bone growth along the spine and other affected areas. In some cases, additional imaging tests such as CT scans or MRI scans may be recommended to assess the extent of the bone growth and rule out other conditions.


Managing DISH in the spine requires a comprehensive approach aimed at reducing pain, improving mobility, and preventing complications. While there is no cure for DISH, various treatment options can help alleviate symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for individuals affected by the condition.

1. Medications:
– Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These medications are commonly used to reduce pain and inflammation associated with DISH. Over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or prescription-strength options may be recommended by healthcare providers.
– Corticosteroids: In cases of severe pain or inflammation, corticosteroid injections may be administered directly into the affected area of the spine to provide short-term relief.

2. Physical Therapy:
– Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing DISH by improving flexibility, strength, and range of motion in the spine. A physical therapist can develop a personalized exercise program tailored to the individual’s specific needs and abilities.
– Stretching exercises can help alleviate stiffness and improve flexibility in the spine and surrounding muscles.
– Strengthening exercises target the muscles that support the spine, helping to improve stability and reduce the risk of injury.

3. Lifestyle Modifications:
– Maintaining a healthy weight: Excess weight can exacerbate symptoms of DISH by placing additional stress on the spine. Adopting a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise can help manage weight and reduce strain on the spine.
– Posture awareness: Practicing good posture can help alleviate pressure on the spine and reduce discomfort associated with DISH. Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing in one position and using ergonomic furniture and tools can also help promote better posture.

4. Assistive Devices:
– Assistive devices such as braces or supportive cushions may provide additional support and stability for individuals with DISH, particularly during activities that exacerbate symptoms.
– Orthotic inserts or supportive footwear can help distribute weight evenly and reduce strain on the spine and joints.

5. Surgical Intervention:
– In severe cases of DISH where conservative treatments fail to provide adequate relief, surgical intervention may be considered. Surgery may involve removing excess bone growth, decompressing nerves that are compressed by bone spurs, or stabilizing the spine with fusion surgery.
– It’s essential to discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate course of action based on individual circumstances.

Treating DISH in the spine requires a multifaceted approach that addresses pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. By combining medications, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and, in some cases, surgical intervention, individuals with DISH can effectively manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. It’s essential for individuals affected by DISH to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets their unique needs and goals.


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