The causes of back pain can be as complex as the spine itself.
Before a doctor can successfully treat a patient’s pain, the cause of the problem first needs to be determined.
The following is a list of common medical evaluation procedures that spine specialists use to diagnose their patients’ back pain:
Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI) – An MRI is the test most commonly used to diagnose pain in the lumbar region of the spine. MRI devices generate a powerful magnetic field to create an image of the inside of the body and are used in many medical specialties. For back pain diagnoses, MRIs can evaluate bones, discs, joints, nerves, and soft tissues.
Cat Scan (CT) – Cat Scans are useful for bone diagnoses when MRIs are not suitable for a patient.
X-rays – X-rays use electromagnetic radiation to create an image which doctors evaluate to diagnose spinal irregularities with bones, joints, and degenerative lesions.
Myelography – In myelograms, a dye is injected into a patient in order to improve the contrast of X-ray images for physician evaluation.
Discography – A discogram procedure can help determine if a lumbar disc is the source of a patient’s pain.
Electromyography (EMG) – An EMG/Nerve Conduction Study is used to evaluate the condition of nerves in the arms and legs.
Bone density test – Used to determine skeletal strength, a bone density test scans an area of bone with a special machine. This simple test can be done while the patient is fully clothed and lasts only a few minutes.
Bone scan test – This test uses nuclear technology to evaluate bone cancer, infections, and other conditions. Three hours before the test, the patient receives a injection of a radioactive tracer, which has no side effects. Once the tracer is absorbed into the bones, a “gamma camera” scans the body and uses the tracer to create an image for doctor evaluation.