Skip to content

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis - Exams and Tests

Lumbar spinal stenosis can usually be diagnosed based on your history of symptoms, a physical exam, and imaging tests—tests that produce various kinds of pictures of your body. These tests include:

  • MRI, to check your spinal nerves and look for disc problems.
  • CT scan, to check your bones and joints.
  • X-rays, to measure the extent of arthritis or injuries to the vertebrae.
  • Bone scan, to rule out cancer and other bone diseases.
  • Electromyogram and nerve conduction tests to see if other problems may be causing or adding to your symptoms.
  • Myelogram, to look for narrowing of the spinal canal or abnormalities of the nerves branching off the canal. This is rarely used to diagnose spinal stenosis.

Your doctor may try nonsurgical treatment, such as pain-relieving medicines, exercise, and physical therapy, for a period of time before ordering imaging tests. If treatment works, you may not need tests.

Recommended Related to Back Pain

What's Making Your Back Hurt?

When you've got back pain, one of the best questions you can ask is, "Why is it happening?" That can be the first step to helping the problem. Common causes for back pain include: Muscle and ligament injuries. These are the most common causes of back pain. Shoveling snow or helping a friend move her couch can sometimes overstretch the muscles or ligaments. You can wind up with strains or sprains. Most of these injuries heal in a few days to weeks. Disc injuries...

Read the What's Making Your Back Hurt? article > >

Imaging tests can help confirm a diagnosis or rule out other problems. But even if imaging shows spinal stenosis, your symptoms may not match the results of the tests. So treatment is based on what your symptoms are and how much spinal stenosis is impacting your life, not just on the results of imaging tests.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
1
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Woman holding lower back
Or is it another form of back pain?
Hand on back
Eight out of 10 us will have it. Here’s the myths vs. the facts.
 
Woman doing pilates
Good and bad exercises
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Use it to manage your pain.
 
Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
Video
pain in brain and nerves
Slideshow
 
Chronic Pain Healtcheck
Health Check
break at desk
Article
 
Woman holding lower back
Slideshow
Weight Loss Surgery
Slideshow
 
lumbar spine
Slideshow
back pain
Article