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investigations for neck 'n' back pain

There are many causes of back and neck pain. If you have to get the cause of your back or neck pain diagnosed by a healthcare professional, click below to learn more:
X-Ray
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Computerized Axial Tomographic Scan (CT or CAT scan)
EMG (Electromyogram)
Myelogram
Discogram
Bone Scan

X-Ray
X-rays are one of the best known diagnostic tests. Patients over the age of 60 should have X-rays at the onset of pain even if there is no injury. The key benefit of X-rays is that they can be performed quickly and are inexpensive. For scoliosis and kyphosis and back-pain, it is better to take standing X-rays.
X-rays are usually not performed during pregnancy, if need be, a lead shield may be used to cover the patient's reproductive organs from the X-ray beam.

MRI
This non-invasive test not only shows the physician the bones, but also provides excellent details of the soft tissues. The MRI is helpful in diagnosing any condition in which the anatomy of the spine and its soft tissues need to be seen clearly, including degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, spinal stenosis, kyphosis, sciatica, scoliosis and tumors and infections of the vertebrae.
A magnet excites the hydrogen atoms in the body, which give off electromagnetic waves that are recorded by a computer. The computer then analyzes the results to reconstruct an image of the spine.
You won’t feel any pain, but you will hear some loud noises during the exam. Depending on how many pictures are needed, the exam can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes. It is very important that you notify your physician if you have any metal in your body which cannot be removed, such as a pacemaker, aneurysm clips or prosthesis. You may not be able to have an MRI if you have such metal in your body. There are “open” and “closed” MRIs; unless you are claustrophobic, a closed MRI is always performed.

CT SCAN
CT scan combines X-rays with computer technology, offering more information than plain X-rays. CT scans are fast, safe, painless, and may be combined with other tests, such as myelogram and discogram, to achieve the most accurate diagnosis possible. Typically, the test takes 15 minutes to an hour, and solid food cannot be eaten for three hours prior to the exam. The CT scan is helpful for detecting herniated discs, spinal stenosis, sciatica, scoliosis, kyphosis and tumors and infections of the vertebra.
The CT scan uses a large number of thin X-ray beams, each of a low dosage and lasting only a fraction of a second, through your body at different angles as the scanner rotates around you. The CT scan is wide open. There are no issues with claustrophobia. So be sure to inform your physician if there is the possibility of pregnancy.

EMG
The EMG studies the condition of the nerve roots leaving the spine and running to the extremities. EMG works by examining the electrical activity in the muscles which these nerve roots control. For example, if you are feeling lower back pain, your leg muscles may be tested to see if there is a problem with the nerves that travel to your legs.
During an EMG, tiny electrode needles are inserted into the muscles being tested. If the muscle is not functioning normally, it may mean that a nerve is being irritated or pinched—a possible sign of a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. The test takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of muscles being tested. The EMG is safe, but the needles may cause some bruising.

MYELOGRAM
A MYELOGRAM is more invasive than a MRI, but is sometimes necessary to more accurately diagnose the patient’s condition. A CT scan is often performed at the same time as the myelogram in order to gather even more information. During a myelogram, special dye that shows up on X-rays is injected into the spinal column. The X-rays are then compiled into an image of the flow of fluid around your spinal column. Any decrease or blockage in the flow may indicate pressure on the nerves of the spine, possibly from a herniated disc or bony spur, or, less often, a tumor.
The test will take about an hour to complete. The doctor will discuss the risks of the myelogram, which are small but include itching around the puncture site, infection and allergic reactions. You may develop a headache either several hours or several days after the test.

DISCOGRAM
The DISCOGRAM is similar to the myelogram, in that special dye is injected into the disc and X-rays are taken. It is also often accompanied by a CT scan. While discs don’t show up on ordinary X-rays, the X-rays of the dye can show if a disc has ruptured (a herniated disc) since any leakage of dye will be revealed. Also, any sensation of pain from the injection may indicate that a particular disc is the source of the pain. Discography helps determine which discs are the sources of pain. During the test, you will have an IV to sedate you if necessary and protect against any allergic reaction. The procedure takes about 20 minutes and may be uncomfortable.

BONE SCAN
During a bone scan, a radioactive chemical is injected into the bloodstream. This chemical adheres to parts of the bone which are undergoing rapid changes. After a gamma camera scans the area, these parts show up as dark areas on the film. It can help evaluate spinal tumors, infection or occult fractures more accurately than plain X-rays.

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