Lumbar Disc Disease (cont.)
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Exams and Tests
A doctor first takes a complete medical history to determine what the symptoms are, when they began, what treatment has already been attempted, and what other medical conditions might be present.
Next, a complete physical exam with a focused exam of the lower back is performed. This includes evaluating the strength in the lower back and leg muscles as well as testing the reflexes and sensation in the legs.
Since most cases of low back pain resolve spontaneously without a specific diagnosis, the doctor may not initially order any other tests.
Imaging studies may include plain x-rays films, CT scans, or MRI of the lumbar spine. These imaging studies need to be interpreted carefully since many people have normal changes seen in these studies as they age, without having physical symptoms. Any diagnosis should be based on specific findings from the history and physical exam that are supported by imaging studies.
If a suspicion of infection, tumor, or inflammatory disorder arises, blood tests may be performed for further evaluation.
A doctor may also order tests to determine if the nerves in the back are being compressed. These tests include EMGs (electromyogram, a test that records the activity of muscles) or nerve conduction studies.
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