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Upper and Middle Back Pain (cont.)

Exams and Tests

Your doctor will first ask you about your past health, your symptoms, and your work and physical activities. Then he or she will do a physical exam. Your doctor may also order an imaging test to find out if something such as a broken bone or a herniated disc is causing your pain.

The type of imaging test you have depends on what kind of problem your doctor suspects. You may have one or more tests, such as:

  • An X-ray to look for injuries or diseases that affect the discs and joints of the spine.
  • An MRI to look for injuries and diseases that affect the discs and nerves of the spine, such as a herniated disc, a pinched nerve, or a tumor. It can also show whether any part of the spinal canalClick here to see an illustration. has narrowed.
  • A CT scan to look for a tumor, a fracture, a herniated disc, narrowing of the spinal canal, or an infection. It can also show whether osteoporosis is the cause of a compression fracture.
  • A bone scan to look for damage to the bones, a tumor, or infection, or to find the cause of unexplained back pain.
  • An electromyogram and nerve conduction study to check how well the spinal cord, nerve roots, and nerves and muscles that control your arms and legs are working. It can help find out what is causing pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs.

More tests may be done to check for other possible causes for your pain.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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