What Does A Spine Specialist Look For During A Physical Examination?

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: July 18, 2022

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If you’ve read a number of our blogs, you probably know that one of the main points in the diagnostic process is the physical examination. So what is the doctor looking for during this physical assessment? In today’s blog, we walk you through some of the things that your spine specialist will look for during a physical assessment, and we explain why you should turn to Dr. Sinicropi if you are curious about what’s causing your spinal discomfort.

What A Back Doctor Is Looking For During An Exam?

After reviewing your medical history and talking to you about the symptoms you’re experiencing, your spine specialist will begin the physical assessment. Here’s some of the things they’ll be looking for or examining when conducting a physical exam.

  • Asymmetry – One of the things that a doctor can see clearly with their eyes alone is whether you have some asymmetry in any parts of your body. They’ll be particularly interested in areas like your neck, shoulders, lower back and hips. They may ask you to do this from a seated or standing position, or while you’re walking.
  • Posture – Similarly, your doctor will take a look at your posture when you’re walking or standing to get a better idea of how your condition is affecting your posture, or if your posture could be contributing to your discomfort. They’ll look for a hunched or slouched appearance, or anything else that suggests your posture is putting undue pressure on certain areas of your body.
  • Range of Motion – Your doctor will have you perform some simple movements during this assessment in order to see how your body works while it’s in motion. They’ll want to see how flexible your spine is by having you conduct a few range of motion tests. If you have limited range of motion, especially when turning in one direction, it’s easier for your specialist to pinpoint the root cause of your discomfort.
  • Your Gait – Your spine specialist will also likely have you walk in a straight line so that they can observe your spine as it completes this daily task. A spinal issue can sometimes lead to a hitch in your step or an abnormal gait, so your doctor will want to see if your back problem is causing problems when you walk.
  • Pressure Response – At some point, your spine specialist will physically feel your spine with their hands. This is called palpating your spine, and they’ll be looking for abnormalities or an onset of symptoms. If the palpation process uncovered tenderness or pain in a specific spot, your doctor may have a better idea where to look during a subsequent imaging exam.
  • Bending Ability – Finally, if your doctor believes that your spine can handle it, they may ask you to bend it in a certain way. Bending your back will increase the stress it is under, so they won’t have you bend if they believe it could lead to significant pain, but mild bending and twisting can help put certain structures or muscles in the spotlight and aid in pinpointing the source of discomfort.

This is just a basic overview of some of the things your specialist will look for during a physical exam, but you’ll also play an important role during this process. It’s crucial that you explain what you’re experiencing during the exam and are open and honest about your symptoms and your severity. Communication between patient and provider is essential during these physical exams to help uncover the root cause of your issue.

If you’d like to set up an appointment with Dr. Sinicropi to figure out what’s going on with your spine, give the team at the Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today at (651) 430-3800.

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