How is a bulging disc diagnosed?

If you suspect you are suffering from a bulging disc, or another spine condition, schedule an appointment with your physician so he or she can diagnose your condition and determine the best treatment plan. A bulging disc diagnosis typically involves the following steps:

  • Medical history review. In order to have a comprehensive picture of your current health and past conditions, your physician will ask you to provide information on your family’s medical history, previous accidents, current and past health problems, medications, allergies and surgeries. Additional important details include your occupation, activity level, participation in sports and eating habits.
  • Symptoms review. In addition to questions about your medical history, your physician will also ask questions about the symptoms you are experiencing. He or she will want to know how long you have been experiencing symptoms, if they have progressed or worsened over time, if symptoms are affected by activity or being still, whether or not pain is constant and if you have tried any home care.
  • Physical examination. During a physical examination your physician will palpate, or lightly touch, certain parts of the body to make sure everything is in proper working order and there aren’t any irregularities or areas of concern. Your physician will also test your reflexes and muscle strength. Depending on your symptoms, your physician may ask you to get into certain positions or perform certain motions to see if symptoms are exacerbated or relieved.
  • Diagnostic testing and imaging. After your physician has finished the symptoms review, medical history review and physical examination, he or she should have arrived at a preliminary bulging disc diagnosis. To confirm the diagnosis and further pinpoint the problem area, your physician may order a CT scan, MRI or other medical tests.

What is a CT scan?

A CT scan is a computed tomography scan that uses X-rays combined with computer processing to create three-dimensional images of the inside of the body. The X-rays are positioned at various angles in order to create cross-sectional views of the spine. With a CT scan, your physician can inject contrast dye into soft tissues including spinal discs and blood vessels so this anatomy is visible on the CT scan. A CT scan is a useful diagnostic imaging tool for a bulging disc diagnosis.