Lower Back Pain Diagnosis
Electrodiagnostic procedures include:
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Nerve conduction studies
- Evoked potential (EP) studies.
EMG assesses the electrical activity in a nerve and can detect whether muscle weakness results from injury or a problem with the nerves that control the muscles. Very fine needles are inserted into muscles to measure electrical activity transmitted from the brain or spinal cord to a particular area of the body.
With nerve conduction studies, the doctor will use two sets of electrodes (similar to those used during an electrocardiogram) that are placed on the skin over the muscles. The first set will give the person a mild shock to stimulate the nerve that runs to a particular muscle. The second set of electrodes is used to make a recording of the nerve's electrical signals, and from this information the doctor can determine if there is nerve damage and if this relates to the lower back pain diagnosis.
Evoked potential tests also involve two sets of electrodes -- one set to stimulate a sensory nerve and the other set on the scalp to record the speed of nerve signal transmissions to the brain.
Bone scans are used to diagnose and monitor infection, fracture, or disorders in the bone. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and will collect in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images are then sent to a computer to identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.
Thermography involves the use of infrared sensing devices to measure small temperature changes between the two sides of the body or the temperature of a specific organ. Thermography may be used to detect the presence or absence of nerve root compression.