Lower Back Pain Diagnosis
Myelograms will also enhance the diagnostic imaging of an x-ray. In this procedure, the contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal, allowing spinal cord and nerve compression caused by herniated discs or fractures to be seen on an x-ray.
Computed Tomography Scan
A computed tomography (CT) scan is a quick and painless procedure used to diagnose lower back pain when disc rupture, spinal stenosis, or damage to vertebrae is suspected as a cause of lower back pain. X-rays are passed through the body at various angles and are detected by a computerized scanner to produce two-dimensional slices (1 mm each) of internal structures of the back. This diagnostic exam is generally conducted at an imaging center or hospital.
(Click Spinal Stenosis for more information about this condition and how it contributes to lower back pain.)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to evaluate the lumbar region for bone degeneration or injury or disease in tissues and nerves, muscles, ligaments, and blood vessels. MRI scanning equipment creates a magnetic field around the body strong enough to temporarily realign water molecules in the tissues. Radio waves are then passed through the body to detect the "relaxation" of the molecules back to a random alignment and trigger a resonance signal at different angles within the body.
A computer processes this resonance into either a three-dimensional picture or a two-dimensional "slice" of the tissue being scanned, and differentiates between bone, soft tissues, and fluid-filled spaces by their water content and structural properties. This noninvasive procedure is often used to identify and diagnose a condition requiring prompt surgical treatment.