Diagnosing Back Problems
Back problems come in many different types, including herniated or slipped disc, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, and problems caused by weak muscles. This article will give you an idea of what different types of tests are available and how your doctor will determine the source of your back pain. What you are about to read is the culmination of information from many different places and resources.
Before your doctor can diagnose your condition and create a treatment strategy, a complete profile and physical exam are needed. This will give your physician a better idea of the reason for your condition. Then appropriate diagnostic tests may be recommended.
Your doctor will want to get an account of your condition. While you are waiting to see the physician you may start by filling out a printed form. Your problem will be easier to diagnose, the more information you share with your physician; so take time to think about everything that relates to your pain and write it down.
A physical history can give your physician insight into your lifestyle, when the pain began, physical factors that might be causing pain, something that could have caused an injury, and any family history of similar problems.
After reading through your written history, your physician will ask more questions that connect to the information you have given.
Your physician may want to know:
- If and where you are feeing deadness or weakness
- If the pain radiates to other parts of your body
- About any current weight loss, fever, or illness
- Where you are feeling pain and how intense it is
- If you have had an injury
- If you’ve had troubles with your bladder or bowels
- Whether you have had this problem or something like it before.
- What factors make the pain feel better or poorer
Physical Exam – After taking your history, your doctor will give you a physical exam. This allows the physician to to determine the source of your trouble and try to rule out probable causes of pain. The areas of your body that will be examined depend upon where you are experiencing pain: lower back, legs, neck, arms, etc.
Motion of Your Spine – Is there pain when you bend, move or twist? If so, where? Have you lost some flexibility?
Reflex Changes – Your tendon reflexes might be tested, such as below the kneecap and behind the ankle in the Achilles tendon
Motor Skills – You might be asked to stagger on your heels or toes.
Sensory Changes – Can you feel certain sensations in detail areas of the feet or hands?
Weakness -Your muscles will be tested for power. You might be asked to try to elevate or push your arm, hand, or leg when light resistance is put against them.
Pain – The physician may try to determine if you have tenderness of certain areas.
Special Signs – Your physician will also confirm for any “red flags” that could designate something other than spinal/vertebrae problems. Some indications of other problems include tenderness in certain areas, a fever, an abnormal pulse, frequent steroid use (leads to injury of bone mass), or fast weight loss.
Diagnostic Tests – Diagnostic tests may be required in order to spot your condition. Tests are chosen based on what your physician suspects is causing the trouble.