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Diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical examination. Your physician will ask questions about your symptoms, how your problem is affecting your activities, your pain and if you have numbness or weakness in your legs.
The physician does a physical examination to see which back movements cause pain or other symptoms. Your skin sensation, muscle strength and reflexes also are tested. Other diagnostic 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 the disk herniation. This test is done in some patients who cannot have magnetic resonance imaging, such as patients with pacemakers.
- Magnetic resonance imaging – This test gives a clear picture of the spinal canal, and it can show if the nerves inside are being squeezed. The scan creates pictures that look like slices of the area your physician is interested in. The test does not require dye or a needle.
- X-rays – These images show bone structures.
When the diagnosis is still not clear, physicians may recommend tests of the nerves that go to the legs and feet. An electromyogram checks if 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.