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Diagnosing a Ruptured Disc

diagnosing a ruptured disc

To diagnose a ruptured disc, your physician will start with discussing your medical history, and then he or she will conduct a physical examination. Throughout this process, your physician probably will ask you specific questions about your symptoms, as your answers can provide clues as to whether you have a ruptured disc or another condition.

After the medical history, physical exam and discussion of your symptoms, a ruptured disc diagnosis may include diagnostic and imaging tests, such as:

  • X-rays
  • Blood tests
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Myelogram
  • Electromyogram (EMG)
  • Discography
  • Nerve root block test

Interestingly, some of these tests – like X-rays and blood tests – will not show the physician that you have a ruptured disc, but they will rule out other conditions like an infection, fracture or tumor. This exemplifies why diagnosing a ruptured disc can be difficult; its symptoms of numbness, weakness and tingling in the arm, lower back, thigh or leg can resemble other conditions, including sciatica or spinal stenosis.

When a disc becomes damaged, either due to aging or injury, the outer layer known as the annulus fibrosus can break open and push out the material inside called nucleus pulposus, a jellylike material. With nowhere to go except into the narrow spinal canal, the nucleus pulposus can put pressure on the spine’s nerve roots or spinal cord, causing pain, numbness, weakness, tingling and other ruptured disc symptoms.

If you’re experiencing lower back or neck pain, or lower back pain, contact your physician. He or she can determine whether or not the pain you feel is caused by a cervical ruptured disc, lumbar ruptured disc or thoracic ruptured disc. Treatment options depend on the location of the ruptured disc but may include over-the-counter medication to reduce pain, as well as physical therapy.

For symptoms that persist despite conservative treatments, patients might require surgery to find relief. Laser Spine Institute offers a free review of your MRI or CT scan to determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, state-of-the-art procedures. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information about our facilities, and to learn how we can help you find relief from your neck or back pain.