Diagnostic Test FAQs

Q. How will my doctor begin to examine my spine?

A. After taking your history, your doctor will give you a physical examination to rule out possible causes of pain and to determine what is causing your problems. Things that your doctor will usually examine include:

Spine motion — do you have pain when you twist, bend, or move? If so, where? Have you lost any flexibility?

Weakness — your muscles will be tested for strength. You may be asked to push or lift your arm, hand, or leg against resistance.

Pain — your doctor may try to determine whether certain areas of your body are sore or tender to the touch.

Sensory changes — can you feel different sensations in certain areas of the feet or hands?

Reflex changes — your tendon reflexes may be tested below your knee or behind your ankle.

Motor skills — you may be asked to walk on your toes or heels.

Special signs — your doctor may check for any "red flags" that could indicate there are problems other than with your spine or vertebrae. Some signs of other problems include tenderness in certain areas, a fever, an abnormal pulse, chronic steroid use (which can cause you to lose bone mass), or rapid weight loss.

After your physical examination, your doctor may want to do some tests to help make the diagnosis. These tests may include an x-ray, MRI scan, CT scan, and lab tests.


From vertebrae to ligaments, tendons and nerves. Learn more about the parts of your spine and how they work.



Experienced professionals can help diagnose and treat your back and neck problems. Locate a professional in your area.