Pinched Nerve Diagnosis

There are three steps commonly involved in diagnosing a pinched nerve in the neck or lower back:

  • First, a medical history of the patient is taken. This history includes questions about any pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the muscles the patient may be feeling.
  • Next, a close look into any conditions that other family members have may also be performed to help determine if a hereditary condition is causing the nerve compression.
  • Lastly, a physical examination is performed to test nerve sensations, reflexes, and muscle strength and definition. Obvious signs of nerve compression or damage are reduced sensation and muscular weakness.

Diagnostic Tests for a Pinched Nerve

A CT scan may be performed to better visualize the structures in the spinal column and assist in finding the nerve compression. If it is suspected that a soft tissue injury is impinging on a nerve, an MRI image will provide a highly detailed picture of the tissue in question.

Special nerve tests may be performed to judge the damage of the nerve. A nerve conductivity study uses a mild electrical impulse to stimulate the nerve and measure speed at which it travels along it. During a test called an electromyography, a small needle is inserted into the patient’s muscle to measure the activity of the muscle.