Discitis/Osteomyelitis

After being diagnosed with discitis and osteomyelitis, it can be helpful to learn more about your condition. Armed with this information, and with prompt and proper treatment, you can be back on your way to wellness.

About Discitis/Osteomyelitis

Discitis and osteomyelitis are two separate conditions but are often found together in cases of discitis.

Discitis is an infection of the soft, gel-like pads that sit between and cushion the vertebrae in your spine. The destruction of the disc along with the inflammation from the infection causes severe back pain.

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone itself, usually occurring when a discitis spreads to the adjacent bone. It is more serious than discitis in that it can compromise the structural integrity of the bone it is infecting.

The cause is usually from bacteria that is introduced through the bloodstream from the skin or from an infection elsewhere in the body.

Common Discitis/Osteomyelitis Symptoms

Both discitis and osteomyelitis share some symptoms, but others are unique to each condition. As such, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis to ensure that you get the right treatment.

Discitis symptoms are pretty straightforward. They can include pain and swelling in the back, essentially anywhere there is a spinal disc. Other symptoms can range to stiffness in your back, changes to your posture, abdominal discomfort or pain, a fever or difficulty performing common mobility tasks.

Osteomyelitis displays typical infection signs including pain, swelling and excessive warmth over the affected area or joint, fever with or without chills and redness over the infected area. Because osteomyelitis shares the same symptoms as many other conditions, it’s vital to get an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Discitis/Osteomyelitis

Your doctor has an arsenal of tests at their disposal for pinpointing and diagnosing both discitis and osteomyelitis.

Your doctor may want to perform blood tests, X-rays, biopsy and tissue analysis, bone scans or an MRI (or combination of) to get a definitive picture of what is going on. Once they’ve established that your symptoms are stemming from discitis, they can determine the root cause of the condition.

Osteomyelitis is usually diagnosed using the same tests as those for discitis. If you aren’t experiencing the symptoms of discitis and osteomyelitis is suspected, many of the same techniques will be used to reach a diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Discitis/Osteomyelitis

Discitis without infection can be treated with steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If an infection is present, antibiotics will likely be prescribed. Modifying your daily activities, bed rest and a supportive brace may also be recommended. If the severity is great, surgical intervention may also be recommended.

Treatment for osteomyelitis usually begins with surgery to remove the infected and damaged bone tissue. Once this has been accomplished, IV antibiotics are given to kill any remaining infection and prevent a reoccurrence.