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In order to diagnose a lumbar disc herniation, the doctor asks several questions in order to obtain a complete medical history, as well as carrying out a physical examination. The diagnosis can be confirmed by a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study.
Medical history and physical examination.After reviewing the medical history of the patient, the health professional examines the vertebral column. Some of the tests include:
Neurological examination. This is used to detect weakness or loss of sensitivity. The health professional examines how the patient places their heels and toes while they are walking in order to check if there is muscular weakness, as well as the strength of the thigh, ankle, and toes. The health professional can see if there is a loss of sensitivity in the patient’s legs and feet by checking if they feel a gentle touch. The reflexes in the knee and ankle are also checked, as they can sometimes be lost.
Straight leg raise (SLR) test. This test can accurately predict a disc herniation in patients under 35 years-old. In this test, the patient lies down on their back facing upwards and the health professional lifts the affected leg straight, without bending it. If the patient feels pain in that leg from the knee downwards, the test is positive for a herniated disc.
Imaging Studies. To help confirm a diagnosis of a disc herniation, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study may be recommended. The results of this test are clear images of the soft tissues, such as the intervertebral discs.
Published: 29 October 2019
Updated: 29 October 2019
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