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

Sciatica Pain Relief

As many as 40% of people will get sciatica, or irritation of the sciatic nerve, at some point in their life. This nerve comes from either side of the lower spine and travels through the pelvis and buttocks. Then the nerve passes along the back of each upper leg before it divides at the knee into branches that go to the feet. Anything that puts pressure on or irritates this nerve can cause pain that shoots down the back of one buttock or thigh. The sensation of pain can vary widely. Sciatica may...

Read the Sciatica Pain Relief 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.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    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