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How is Neck Pain Diagnosed?

In this article our Rozelle and Balmain chiropractors will discuss how neck pain is diagnosed. Your medical history and the physical examination is the most important part of your consultation and diagnosis. Most cases of neck pain do not require any additional testing. However, some rare cases may require diagnostic testing to diagnose back and neck disorders. These tests may include:

  • Spinal tap: This involves a needle being placed into the spinal canal to withdraw a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid is then examined for evidence of bleeding and/or infection.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan: An MRI uses a magnet and computer to develop images of organs and structures inside the body. An MRI scan can pick up images of soft tissue and are useful in diagnosing disorders of the brain, spinal cord and joints.
  • X-rays: Detailed images of the bones of the spine can be developed through x-rays. They are also used in detecting fractures, tumors, deformities in the curve of the spine, osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), and arthritis.
  • Discogram: This test is used to evaluate why a spinal intervertebral disc is painful by injecting dye into the disk to be studied. Tears or cracks in the annulus of the disk can be viewed.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan: Cross-sectional images are developed using a CT scan, which uses x-rays and computers. A CT scanner takes various pictures of the body, called slices, and a computer reformats them to make them cross-sectional images. CT scans are helpful to diagnose small fractures and other bone disorders because they provide clear detail of the bones of the spine.
  • Laboratory tests: Laboratory tests may include tests of the joint fluid, blood, urine or other various parts of bodily fluid. These tests often help to rule out other diseases or injuries as the cause of the your symptoms.
  • Bone scan: Bone scans look at areas where there is a higher than usual level of bone repair activity, also known as bone turnover. Cancer, infections and fractures are the cause of bone turnover. To find bone turnover, the patient s given a small amount of radioactive material. Once this done and some time has passed, a scanning camera is moved across the patient’s body to detect the radioactive material, which emits gamma rays. A computer analyzes the gamma rays to form an image.
  • Myelogram: This is a different version of an x-ray that is used to detect problems in the spinal canal, nerve roots, disks and spinal cord. After a dye in injected to outline the spinal cord and nerve roots, a CT scan is taken.
  • Electromyelogram (EMG): An EMG is used to evaluate the activity of the spinal nerve roots by placing small needles into various muscles and measuring the electrical activity of the muscles’ response, which indicates the degree of nerve activity. In some cases, a nerve conduction study test is also conducted at the same time as an EMG to measure how fast an impulse is transmitted from one nerve to another.

Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) is a chiropractic and physiotherapy centre of excellence located in Balmain and Rozelle Sydney. We use the highest standards in neck pain treatments that are safe, effective and based on the latest research. Our Rozelle and Balmain chiropractors are passionate about helping you recover from neck pain.


Chris Knee

Chris is a chiropractor, sports chiropractor, McKenzie Credentialed practitioner, nutritionist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Chris studied the Doctor of Physiotherapy program at Macquarie University from 2016-2019. He is now finishing his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree to become a medical doctor.