Back Pain : Tests and Diagnosis

The doctor examines the back to find out where the pain is and what degree of movements are possible without inflicting pain. He will find out if the back pain is as a result of muscle spasms.

If necessary the doctor would also check the muscle power in the limbs to see whether the sensation is normal. If there is weakness the nerve reflexes will also be checked.

X-ray: These images show the alignment of the bones and suggest if there are degenerative changes in the vertebral bones and if the joints show any wear and tear. They also show the disc spaces. In a slipped disc the space is diminished between the two vertebral bodies. Two views are necessary – one from the front and the other is taken from the side. The x-rays are a good starting point and provides the doctor with all the basic information.

MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging: If any nerve problem is suspected, an MRI test will be ordered. This is more expensive and takes longer to perform. MRI gives a complete picture of the spinal cord and the its emerging nerves by creating a two dimensional image of the spine.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: These scans like MRI can generate images that may reveal herniated discs of the spine or problems with bones, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons or blood vessels.

Bone scan: An injection of a radioactive substance called as tracer is given into a vein. Using a special camera, the doctor may be able to detect bone tumors or compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.

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