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Diagnosing Back Problems

There are many types of back problems, including herniated discs, slipped discs, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. This article will help you understand the different tests that are available to determine the cause of your back pain. This article is a compilation of information from many sources.

A complete medical history and physical examination are required before your doctor can diagnose you and devise a treatment plan. This will help your doctor get a better understanding of your condition. If necessary, diagnostic tests may be ordered.

Complete History

Your doctor will need to know about your medical history. You can fill out a paper form while you wait to see your doctor. It will be easier for you to diagnose your problem if you have more information. Take the time to reflect on all aspects of your pain and make a list. Your physician can gain insight from your personal history into how you live, what caused the pain and what your family history is of similar issues.

Your physician will review your written history and ask you additional questions to verify the information. What might your physician want to know?

If you feel weak or dead, tell us.

If your pain radiates to other areas of your body

Concerning any current illness, weight loss, fever or other symptoms

How intense and where you feel it


If you have ever had problems with your bladder and bowels

No matter if you’ve ever had the same problem before

Which factors can make pain feel worse or better?

Physical Examination

Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. The doctor will then perform a physical exam to identify the cause of the problem and rule out other possible causes. The area of pain you experience will depend on where it is located: your lower back, legs and neck.

Motion of your Spine – Do you feel pain when you bend, move, or twist? Where is it located? Are you losing your flexibility?

Reflex changes – You might have your tendon reflexes tested below the kneecap or behind the ankle in Achilles tendon.

Motor Skills – You may be asked to walk on your heels or toes.

Sensory Changes – Can you feel sensations in specific areas of your feet or hands?

Weakness – Your muscles will be tested to determine if they are strong. If you are given light resistance, you might be asked to raise or push your arm or hand or leg.

Pain – Your physician might try to determine if there is tenderness in certain areas.

Special Signs – Your doctor will check for other signs that may indicate a problem with your spine/vertebrae. Other signs include tenderness in some areas, fever, abnormal pulse, frequent use of steroid (which can lead to injury of bone mass), and rapid weight loss.

Diagnostic Tests

To diagnose your condition, diagnostic tests may be necessary. Your physician will determine what tests are needed to diagnose the problem.

Bone Scan

CT Scan



Facet Joint Block

Lab Test



Spinal Tap



In future articles, each of these tests will have more detail. This concludes my informational article. Now it’s your turn to make something of this information. Best of luck and health!



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