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 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:
April 15, 2015
- 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.
- Shen FH, et al. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy. In: Textbook of the Cervical Spine. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 5, 2015.
- Levin K. Cervical spondylitic myelopathy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 5, 2015.
- Isaac Z. Evaluation of the patient with neck pain and cervical spine disorders. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 5, 2015.
- Robinson J. Clinical features and diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 5, 2015.
- Cervical spondylosis (arthritis of the neck). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00369. Accessed March 5, 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. What is cervical spondylitic myelopathy? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- AskMayoExpert. What causes cervical spine pain? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Robinson J. Treatment of cervical radiculopathy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 5, 2015.
- Shelerud RA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 24, 2015.
- Sitthipornvorakul E, et al. The effect of daily walking steps on preventing neck and low back pain in sedentary workers: A 1-year prospective cohort study. European Spine Journal. 2015;24:417.