What To Expect During a Spine Exam
Category: Procedures, Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 16, 2016
If you’ve suffered an acute spine injury or just noticed that your back has begun to hurt more frequently, you should consider making an appointment with a certified spine specialist. Considering that more than 90 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some stage in their life, odds are you’ll end up in front of a spine specialist at some point. But what should you expect from the consultation? We explain how a routine spine exam is conducted in today’s blog.
Spine Exam Basics
Similar to a visit to your primary care doctor, a trip to a back specialist will begin with a look into your medical history. You’ll be asked about your family history and your personal history with spine pain and related conditions, either on a questionnaire, by the specialist, or both. This helps the specialist determine where they should look for pain, and it helps them decide the best way to uncover what’s really causing you pain.
Next comes the visual exam. This may occur before you even realize it, especially if the specialist comes to greet you in the waiting room. Sometimes this is done so the doctor can see if and how the pain is impacting your gait. After you change into your gown, the doctor will inspect your spine from the side and rear in order to look for signs of curvature or anything else that may signal there’s an issue.
Once the visual exam ends, the physical exam begins. Your specialist will carefully place their hands in certain areas of your spine to check for swelling, pressure or areas of sensitivity. Your doctor may also ask you to perform a range of movements or actions that can help uncover what’s causing your pain. This helps determine where the problemed disc or injured muscle is located. It also gives the doctor an idea of where they should examine should he or she feel that imaging is necessary.
Finally, depending on how your examine has progressed to this point, your doctor may recommend that you head to the lab for an X-ray, MRI or CT scan. These tests allow the doctor to see the muscles and soft tissues of the spine and look for any abnormalities. These tests also help a specialist confirm a suspected diagnosis by allowing them to actually visualize the structures at play.
Once the exam is complete, odds are your doctor will have a firm grasp on what’s causing your spine pain, and they’ll be able to set you up with some treatment options. This usually comprises of some sort of rest, medications and physical therapy, but at times surgery is necessary. You doctor will explain all your options and ensure you get the best care for your condition.