Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor will likely start with a physical exam that includes:

  • Checking the range of motion in your neck
  • Testing your reflexes and muscle strength to find out if there's pressure on your spinal nerves or spinal cord
  • Watching you walk to see if spinal compression is affecting your gait

Imaging tests

Imaging tests can provide detailed information to guide diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor might recommend:

  • Neck X-ray. An X-ray can show abnormalities, such as bone spurs, that indicate cervical spondylosis. Neck X-ray can also rule out rare and more serious causes for neck pain and stiffness, such as tumors, infections or fractures.
  • CT scan. CT scan can provide more detailed imaging, particularly of bones.
  • MRI. MRI can help pinpoint areas where nerves might be pinched.
  • Myelograpy. A tracer dye is injected into the spinal canal to provide more detailed X-ray or CT imaging.

Nerve function tests

Your doctor might recommend tests to determine if nerve signals are traveling properly to your muscles. Nerve function tests include:

  • Electromyography (EMG). This test measures the electrical activity in your nerves as they transmit messages to your muscles when the muscles are contracting and when they're at rest.
  • Nerve conduction study. Electrodes are attached to your skin above the nerve to be studied. A small shock is passed through the nerve to measure the strength and speed of nerve signals.
Nov. 18, 2015