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Spine Surgery Guide

Exams and Tests for Back Pain

Exams and Tests for Back Pain

If you have back pain that persists more than a few days or is severe and accompanied by other symptoms, you should make an appointment to see a spine specialist. (If you don't already have a spine specialist, you can find one using our Find a Professional in Your Area feature.) Both sudden and persistent back pain can indicate a spinal condition that is more serious than a muscle sprain or strain, which should heal itself within a few weeks.

During your visit, your spine specialist will ask you questions and perform some basic exams. This is to try to identify the cause of your back pain and develop a treatment plan for you—a way to manage your pain and other symptoms and to help you recover.
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such as:

  • When did the pain start?
  • What activities did you recently do?
  • What have you done for your back pain?
  • Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of your body (e.g., down your leg—that would be sciatica)?
  • Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?

You also may be asked to undergo additional tests, such as:
  • Bone scan: To help your doctor detect spinal problems such as osteoarthritis, fractures, or infections, you may have a bone scan. You will have a very small amount of radioactive material injected into a blood vessel. That will travel through your blood stream and be absorbed by your bones. More radioactive material will be absorbed by an area where there is abnormal activity—such as an inflammation. A scanner can detect the amount of radiation in all your bones and show the "hot spots" (the areas with more radioactive material) to help your doctor figure out where the problem is.

  • Discogram: This is a procedure that confirms or denies the disc(s) as the source of your pain. You will have a harmless dye injected into one of your discs. If there's a problem with your disc—like it's herniated—the dye will leak out of the disc. The doctor will be able to see that on an x-ray, and that will show him/her that there's something wrong with your disc.

  • Myelogram: To see if you have a spinal canal or spinal cord disorder—perhaps nerve compression causing pain and weakness—you may have a myelogram. In this test, you'll have a special dye injected into the area around your spinal cord and nerves. (Before that happens, the area will be numbed.) Then you'll have an x-ray or a CT scan. The image will provide a detailed anatomic picture of your spine, especially of the bones, that will help your doctor to identify any abnormalities.

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This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient.
Always consult your doctor about your medical conditions or back problem. We Care Health Services does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of the site is conditional upon your acceptance of our Terms and Conditions is a member of the medical tourism information network

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