To determine whether you have DISH, your doctor might begin with a physical examination of your spine and joints. He or she will press lightly on your spine and joints to feel for abnormalities and check your range of motion.

Your doctor will also order imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans or MRIs, to look for changes in your spine.

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While there's no cure for diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis, you can take steps to reduce pain and stiffness. Treatment is also aimed at keeping the condition from worsening and at preventing complications.

Because of the relationship between DISH and conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, treating those conditions might slow or halt the progression of DISH.


Your doctor might recommend over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others). More-severe pain can be treated with corticosteroid injections.


Physical therapy can reduce the stiffness associated with DISH. Exercises might also increase the range of motion in your joints. Ask your doctor about specific exercises you can do. He or she might refer you to a physical therapist for further guidance.


Surgery might be needed in rare cases when diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis causes severe complications. People who have difficulty swallowing due to large bone spurs in the neck might need surgery to remove the bone spurs. Surgery might also relieve pressure on the spinal cord caused by DISH.

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Lifestyle and home remedies

To help you manage pain and stiffness and to halt progression of the disease, try these self-care measures:

  • Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, can increase your endurance, keep your body more nimble and help you cope with DISH. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Achieve and maintain a desirable weight. Since obesity is associated with DISH, losing weight might help keep the disease from progressing and lower your risk of complications.
  • Apply heat. Use a heating pad on affected areas of your body to reduce pain. Set the heating pad to low to reduce the risk of burns.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. After an initial evaluation, your doctor might refer you to a specialist such as a rheumatologist, physiatrist, orthopedic surgeon or neurologist.

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms and when they began
  • Key medical information, including other conditions you have as well as the names and doses of all medications, vitamins or supplements you take
  • Possible causes of injury to the affected area
  • Questions to ask your doctor

For DISH, some basic questions to ask include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What are other possible causes?
  • What tests do I need?
  • Which treatment do you recommend?
  • What self-care steps can help me manage this condition?
  • Do I need to restrict my activities?
  • How often will you see me for follow-up visits?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there brochures or other materials I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:

  • Have your symptoms gotten worse over time?
  • Are your symptoms worse in the morning?
  • Do you have difficulty moving the affected joint?
  • Are you having difficulty swallowing?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • Have you previously taken long-term, prescribed medications, such as for acne or other skin conditions?
Oct. 20, 2020
  1. Vaishya R, et al. Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) — A common but less known cause of back pain. Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma. 2017;8:191.
  2. Helfgott SM. Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 2, 2018.
  3. Mader R, et al. Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH): Where we are now and where to go next. Rheumatic & Musculoskeletal Diseases Open. 2017;3:e000472.
  4. Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6460/diffuse-idiopathic-skeletal-hyperostosis. Accessed Oct. 2, 2018.


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Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH)