Diagnosis of Low Back Pain and Sciatica
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In particular, your back, hips, and legs and will be tested for strength, flexibility, sensation, and reflexes.
Often, patients with pain may feel an urgent need to have a medical test. It is important to understand that medical tests are not routinely required for back pain and sciatica. Most episodes of acute back pain resolve on their own over several weeks. In these cases, the information from an x-ray or MRI may not change the medical plan, and so these tests may be unnecessary. An MRI or x-ray is usually ordered if there is a plan to do a procedure or surgery, based on the result of the images. Studies of medical imaging have demonstrated that MRI and x-ray may be too sensitive. They can often show abnormalities that are not truly significant, such as degenerated discs in individuals who do not even have symptoms. An improper medical test can lead to improper treatment and can greatly increase medical costs. It is important for such tests to be ordered appropriately.
Tests may include:
Blood tests —Blood tests may include a complete blood count and sedimentation rate. Blood tests may be ordered to check for signs of infection, metabolic disease, or inflammation.
Urine test —These tests check for urinary infection or blood in the urine.
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Last reviewed October 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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