Back and neck pain lasting more than a day should never be ignored, though most cases involve a muscle strain or ligament sprain that will heal by itself over a period of time. However, some instances of back and neck pain are the result of progressive conditions that worsen as the months and years go by. In severe cases, back and neck pain can be indicative of a serious or even life-threatening condition, such as meningitis. That is why it is important to seek medical help at the first sign of pain in your neck or back.
Once engaged, a medical professional who specializes in neck and back conditions, the doctor will perform any number of tests to determine the cause of your pain and determine a treatment plan.
General First Steps for Diagnosing Back Pain
In most cases, a doctor diagnosing back or neck pain will gather a complete medical history of the patient. By learning the patient’s background, the doctor will get a general idea of any injuries or health conditions that may have triggered the current spine discomfort.
The next step is likely to be a physical exam. During this process, the doctor may ask the patient to perform specific movements so that flexibility, reflex, and range of motion can be gauged. Often during this process, the doctor will interview the patient about his or her specific symptoms to augment the information gleaned from the exam itself. These initial steps will help the doctor determine which further testing procedures to order.
Diagnostic Tests for Back Pain
Some common diagnostic tests used to detect the causes of back and neck pain include:
- CT scans
- Bone scans
- Muscle and nerve tests
- Dermatome maps
- Electromyogram (EMG)
Diagnostic testing is essential to determine if your spine pain is caused by herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, arthritis of the spine, bulging discs, foraminal stenosis, or other spinal injury. Once you have a proper diagnosis in hand, you can begin the road to treatment and recovery. A proper diagnosis also provides patients with the peace of mind of knowing what’s causing their symptoms.