Approximately 16 million people in the United States experience long-lasting or chronic back pain. There are several reasons people experience back pain, with the most common being muscle strains, herniated disks, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Before you know exactly what is causing your back pain, you must first receive a diagnosis from a professional. In this post from the Comprehensive Spine Center of Dallas blog, we’ll discuss different ways that back pain is typically diagnosed.
Before any testing is performed, your doctor will examine your back, and assess your ability to stand, walk, lift your legs, and sit down. During this examination, it’s common for doctors to rate your pain on a scale of zero to ten, as well as how you can function in your daily life considering this pain. These initial assessments will help the doctor determine where the pain is coming from, your mobility before the pain forces you to stop, and whether or not you're having muscle spasms. During this phase of your diagnosis, most of the serious conditions that may be causing back pain can be ruled out. If your doctor suspects that a specific condition may be causing your back pain, they may order that you have more testing performed. Below are some common tests that may be requested by your doctor to further diagnose your back pain.
X-rays allow doctors to see images of your bones so they can assess their alignment, and whether you have any broken bones or conditions like arthritis. While x-rays are a powerful tool for diagnosing back pain, they don’t show problems that may exist within the muscles, nerves, discs, or spinal cord. If your pain problem stems from any of these areas, then an x-ray won’t be enough to diagnose your back pain.
MRIs and CT scans generate images that allow doctors to see more detail within the spinal cord, bones, and muscles. These kinds of scans are commonly used if there may be problems within the muscles, tissue, tendons, nerves, ligaments, and blood vessels. Additionally, these scans are commonly used to reveal conditions like herniated disks and other spinal cord-related issues.
Electromyography, commonly known as EMG testing, measures the electrical impulses created by your nerves and how your muscles respond to them. If your doctor suspects a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, EMG testing can be used to confirm if nerve compression is present or not.
Not many people are aware that there are some infections that can result in long-lasting back pain. If none of the other tests show why you’re experiencing back pain, your doctor may perform a blood test to see if you may have an infection that is causing the pain.
In some rare cases, doctors may use a bone scan as a way to diagnose back pain. Most of the time, the reason for your back pain will be discovered before your doctor requests a bone scan. Bone tumors and compression fractures can be caused by osteoporosis, and bone scans can be used to confirm or deny this.
Here at the Comprehensive Spine Center of Dallas, we’ve helped countless patients understand and overcome their back pain. Our team of pain management experts knows why people experience back pain — common and rare conditions alike. If you’d like help learning more about your back pain and how you can start living a pain-free and comfortable lifestyle again, reach out to us today online or over the phone.