This section will provide you a brief overview of tests frequently ordered by physicians to help them in diagnosing conditions related to the spine. The goal of diagnostic testing is to help identify the nature of your condition or injury to your doctor can plan the appropriate treatment and you can receive the best possible care.
What is Spinal Diagnostics?
In any part of the body, diagnostic procedures are used to identify if there is anything wrong with that part. In the case where a patient feels something is definitely wrong with one of his/her body parts, a diagnostic procedure can be used to determine what the cause is.
In the case of back pain, spinal diagnostics can be used to determine what is causing the pain, and where it is originating from. Back pain or Pain in the spine can be from any of these 4 areas:
- Cervical (Neck Region),
- Thoracic (Near the Center of the spine),
- Lumbar (Lower Back area),
- and Sacral (pelvis area).
What Happens When I Undergo Spinal Diagnostics?
There are many procedures that a doctor or specialist can choose to subject you to properly diagnose your back pain. But perhaps the first thing most specialists and doctors do is, to begin with, a personal medical history and physical examination. The doctor will ask you various questions to understand your symptoms and what may have caused it. The level of pain the patient feels will also be taken into consideration, as well as his/her range of motion, muscle strength, overall health, reactions, and reflexes. These factors are all important as far as spinal diagnostics go.
Types of Spinal Diagnostics
1. Physical Examination and Medical History – these two spinal diagnostics procedures usually go hand in hand. Medical history will ask you various questions pertaining to any history you might have had with back pain, such as:
- When did the symptoms start?
- Which specific parts are painful?
- How can you describe the pain?
- Have you had any of these problems before in the past, even only minor ones? And etc.
Physical examination in spinal diagnostics usually involves simple activities such as walking, sitting, standing or bending, during which the observing physician will observe your posture for any irregularities.
2. X-rays – an X-ray is also a useful procedure for spinal diagnostics. X-rays can be used to determine structural irregularities in the spine. Examples of these irregularities are fractures, misalignment, and infection. However, only the bony structures of the spine are shown in an x-ray.
3. Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI – is one of the most common procedures in use today for spinal diagnostics. MRIs can give not only detailed images of the bony structures in your spine, but can also show images of the soft tissues that surround them such as cartilage, ligaments, and even tumors.
4. Computerized Tomography or CT Scan – is another common imaging spinal diagnostics procedure. Where the MRI excels in showing tissues of your spinal cord, the CT scan excels in showing the bony structures. No wonder, as it is considered a sort of 3d version of an x-ray.
5. Myelogram – is an imaging test which involves the placement of a dye into the area around your spinal cord. The dye is often administered intravenously and can identify whether there is a pressure that is exerted on the nerves of the spine.
6. Discogram – the discogram is sort of the same as a myelogram, in that involves the injection of a dye into the area around your spinal cord, but it focuses more on identifying irregularities of the vertebral discs.
Risks Involved in Spinal Diagnostics
Before choosing to go to a physician and get yourself diagnosed, you might wonder if there are risks involved. There aren’t much-recorded cases of complications arising from the diagnosis procedure itself. However, mistakes made during the diagnosis can later affect the treatment procedures involved. Some of the observed risks are misdirected needles and electrodes due to incorrectly obtained views of the target region.
However, complications can definitely arise if you do not get your back pain or spinal problem checked as it can develop into a more serious and complicated condition.
Preparation for Spinal Diagnostics
Now that you understand the risk factors when getting your spinal cord diagnosed, you can start to prepare for meeting your physician or a spine specialist. In truth, visits to the doctor are largely intimidating, especially if you are feeling pain while doing so.
However, a doctor will be there to help you get a proper diagnosis for your spinal diagnostics, and will, in turn, contribute to getting you the best treatment possible for your condition. In turn, you as a patient should be prepared to answer their questions as accurately and concisely as possible.
Be honest with your doctor- this should be the first thing you do once you commit to yourself to enter that clinic. The doctor is there to help you get the best treatment as possible for the condition, and he can only do that if you are honest with him and allow him to diagnose you properly. Lying certainly won’t help.