A number of diagnostic tests are available for back pain. These back pain tests usually aren’t to find out what is causing your pain, but rather what impact the pain has on your daily life and what might be done to alleviate it. The Mayo Clinic explains, “These assessments help determine where the pain comes from, how much you can move before pain forces you to stop and whether you have muscle spasms.”
Physical examination. When you first come in for back pain tests, your doctor will most likely do an external examination. This will focus primarily on how you move and your ability to manage different positions with your type of back pain. A reflex test will probably also be administered.
Urine and blood tests. Back pain may be caused by many different issues, including infection, cancerous tumors or other such issues that can affect your back. Testing both blood and urine samples will help rule out these possible causes, though the tests are generally only done if there’s a good reason to think that they might be needed. These types of back pain issues are relatively rare, so such tests are not done routinely for everyone with back pain.
Imaging. Various types of diagnostic imaging tests may be used, especially if initial treatments based on the physical exam are not effective. These may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) or X-rays. Imaging tests for back pain will help rule out the possibility of fracture, bone density issues, tumor or disc herniation.
EMG testing. Electromyography, or EMG, tests the nerve pathways for proper responses. If your back pain is the result of an impinged or otherwise damaged nerve, then it will most likely show up in these tests. EMG is especially useful in diagnosing herniated discs (slipped discs) or spinal stenosis. The types of back pain tests your doctor chooses to do will depend largely on your family and personal history, as well as the type and duration of your back pain.