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Diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical examination. Your physician will ask questions about your symptoms and pain, how your problem is affecting your activities and if you have feelings of numbness or weakness in your hands.
The physical examination helps determine which neck movements cause pain or other symptoms. Your skin sensation, muscle strength and reflexes also are tested.
Potential imaging tests include:
- Computed tomography myelogram – This scan provides a detailed X-ray that lets your physician see slices of bone tissue. In this test, a dye is injected in the spinal canal to better show disk. This test is done in some patients who cannot have an MRI, such as patients with a pacemaker.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – This test creates pictures that look like slices of the area your physician is interested in examining. The test does not require dye or a needle.
- X-rays – The images will show any decrease in disk space and bone spurs because of arthritis.
When the diagnosis is still not clear, physicians may recommend tests of the nerves that go to the arms and legs. An electromyogram checks whether the motor pathway of a nerve is working correctly. Motor impulses travel down the nerve and work to energize muscles. This test is done by a neurologist.