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Spondylosis (cont.)

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Spondylosis?

Because the diagnosis of spondylosis is made with images by plain film X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan, most people with this diagnosis have already seen their doctor. Reasons for re-evaluation by a health-care professional include the following:

  • If your pain is not manageable with the prescribed treatment
  • For the development of acute nerve dysfunction, such weakness in one or more limbs (For example, see your doctor if your leg is weak and you are unable to flex your foot at the ankle or walk on your toes or heels.)
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control, in the setting of acute back or neck pain, such as inability to start or stop urinating, can indicate a serious nerve dysfunction and should be evaluated at the emergency department immediately.
  • Numbness in the groin area, or "saddle anesthesia," meaning numbness in the distribution where the bottom would contact a saddle: This can indicate a serious nerve dysfunction and should be evaluated at the emergency department immediately.
  • If back or neck pain is associated with weight loss or fever greater than 100 F

What Tests Do Doctors Use to Diagnose Spondylosis?

The diagnosis of spondylosis is made using radiology tests such as plain film X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. X-rays can show bone spurs on vertebral bodies in the spine, thickening of facet joints (the joints that connect the vertebrae to each other), and narrowing of the intervertebral disc spaces. CT scans of the spine are able to visualize the spine in greater detail and can diagnose narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) when present. MRI scans are expensive but show the greatest detail in the spine and are used to visualize the intervertebral discs, including the degree of disc herniation, if present. An MRI is also used to visualize the vertebrae, the facet joints, the nerves, and the ligaments in the spine and can reliably diagnose a pinched nerve.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/9/2017

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