A healthcare professional’s clinical diagnosis focuses on finding out the source of a patient’s pain. For this reason, the clinical identification of pain in the herniated disc relies on more than only the findings from a diagnostic evaluation, like CT scan or an MRI scan.
The spine care professional arrives at a clinical diagnosis of the cause of the patient’s pain by means of a combination of findings by a comprehensive medical history, conducting a complete physical exam, and, if appropriate, running one or more diagnostic tests:
- Medical history: The physician will choose the patient’s medical history, such as a description of if sciatica, the back pain or other symptoms occur, a description of how the pain feels, what remedies, positions or activities make the pain feel better and more.
- Physical examination: The physicians will conduct a physical exam of the individual, such as muscle power and analyzing neural function in parts of the leg or arm, analyzing for pain in positions and much more. Ordinarily, this series of physical tests will give a good idea of the type of back issue the individual has to the spine professional.
- Diagnostic tests: After the physician has a fantastic idea of the origin of the patient’s pain, a diagnostic evaluation, such as a CT scan or a MRI scan, is often ordered to confirm the presence of an anatomical lesion at the backbone. The evaluations can give a picture of the location of nerve roots and the disc.
It’s important to emphasize that MRI scans and other diagnostic tests aren’t utilized to diagnose the patient’s pain; rather, they are only utilized to confirm the existence of an anatomical problem that was suspected or identified throughout the medical history and physical examination. Because of this, while the radiographic findings on an MRI scan or other tests are significant, they aren’t as important in diagnosing the reason for the patient’s pain (that the clinical investigation demonstrated) as are the findings from the medical history and physical examination. Many times, an MRI scan or other kind of evaluation will be used for the purpose of treatment, so the healthcare specialist can determine the way it’s currently impinging on the nerve root and precisely where the herniated disc is.
When MRI is Used to Diagnose Herniated Discs
When patients have predominantly experienced leg pain along with a lumbar disc herniation, MRI scans are usually recommended early in a patient’s path of pain.
Therefore, physicians often recommend waiting 3 to 6 months (following the onset of lower back pain) prior to having an MRI scan done as a way to see whether the pain will get better with conservative (nonsurgical) remedies. As a very general guideline, if the results of the MRI scan aren’t likely to affect a patient’s further back pain therapy, and the patient will continue with non-surgical treatments such as chiropractic treatments, physical therapy and drugs, waiting to acquire an MRI scan, as well as other imaging scans, in most situations is a fair option.
What Happens When a Disc Herniates
Though the spinal discs are made to withstand significant amounts of force, injury and other issues with the disc can happen. After the disc ages or is injured, the outer portion (annulus fibrosus) of a disk may be torn as well as the disc’s inner substance (nucleus pulposus) can herniate or extrude out of the disk. Nerves, and the inner portion of the disc surround each spinal disc that leaks out comprises proteins, therefore when this material comes in contact with a nerve wracking pain that may travel down the length of the nerve can be caused by it. Even a tiny disk herniation which enables a small quantity of the inner disc material to touch the nerve may cause pain.
Pain from a Herniated Disc vs. Degenerative Disc Disease
A herniated disc will generally create another type of pain than degenerative disk disease (another common disc problem).
When a patient has a symptomatic degenerated disc (one which causes pain or other symptoms), it’s the disc space itself which is debilitating and is the origin of pain. This type of pain is called axial pain.
When a patient has a symptomatic herniated disc, it is not the disk space itself that hurts, but rather the disc difficulty is causing pain in a nerve in the spine. This kind of pain is typically called radicular pain (nerve root pain, or tingling from a lumbar herniated disk).
In conclusion, when an individual begins to experience painful symptoms along their lower back, or lumbar spine, although they may sometimes not experience any symptoms, it a herniated disc is suspected, its recommended to seek immediate medical attention and to consider having an MRI, CT scan or other imaging tests to properly diagnose the presence of a herniated disc or other injury and/or condition before following with treatment.
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Sciatica
Lower back pain is one of the most commonly reported symptoms among the general population. Sciatica, is well-known group of symptoms, including lower back pain, numbness and tingling sensations, which often describe the source of an individual’s lumbar spine issues. Sciatica can be due to a variety of injuries and/or conditions, such as spinal misalignment, or subluxation, disc herniation and even spinal degeneration.