How do physicians diagnose low-back pain?

Many Possibilities. Depending on how long it's been going on, i would consider an evaluation by a spine specialist. Using imaging studies and examination it can be determined. Sometimes it could be a muscle imbalance, early onset arthritis or scoliosis. Also could be a pinched nerve/herniated disc. Either way it might be good to figure it out and get appropriate treatment.
Exam and imaging. Low back pain is what you feel. What we diagnose is the cause of the pain. Most of us over the age of 50, and many younger, have back malformations that can cause pain. Some diagnoses are obvious to the trained ear, such as "my back hurts here and the pain radiates to there". Others need xrays or mri's so we can "see" inside you. See a trained specialist to get a diagnosis - before treatment.
Patient history. "listen to the patient ant he will tell you the diagnosis." osler. The most important part of any medical visit in my opinion is the history taking. The physical examination and auxiliary exams are also very important. For back pain, x rays and mris are very often helpful, but not always necessary. A good doctor will start with taking an adequate history and physical, moving on based on findings.
Depends on training. The avg md has basic training in musculoskeletal problems like back pain.History gives them clues, but there is strong reliance on technology to make the diagnosis for them.If the cause is too subtle for xray/mri to see, then a generic (useless) diagnosis is given.A good history & physical, though, incl osteopathic hands-on exam can often find such problems which can then be fixed by manipulation.

Related Questions

What kind of doctor should I see for low back pain?

Orthopedic surgeon. Orthopedic surgeons are the best place to start for low back pain. Alternatively you can see a physical medicine doctor. Read more...
A Spine Specialist. A spine specialist is a specific type of orthopedic surgeon who specializes in conditions, deformities and treatments of the spine. A spine specialty designation means the doctor has additional training and expertise in conditions that affect the spine. Read more...
Simple solutions. Start with your primary care doctor. Chiropractic physicians provide conservative management and can order xrays as necessary. Several large, recent studies show chiropractic is the safest and most cost effective interventions. Word of mouth referral is best place to start. American academy of osteopathy (aao) can help you locate a do in your area specializing in structural medicine. Read more...
Spine Pain Options. This chronic pain in the distribution as you suggested is the result of an irritated nerve or facet joints or other injury typically in the lumbar spine (low back) which are caused by herniated disks, spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease, etc requiring further evaluation by a spine specialist and may be candidate for facet injections/radiofrequency ablation and epidural steroid injection. Read more...

What can a doctor's exam tell me about my low back pain?

I think it dose tell. A lot, it tell if the pain could come from the or urinary tract, or from herpes zoster or blood vessels(aorta), it could tell if there weakness in the legs and more. Read more...
Tells a lot. if there are findings, however with subtle injuries sometimes findings are not evident on exam even though patient complains about them. Hard to say with getting evaluation done first. Read more...

How can I find a qualified doctor to find the reason for the severe low back pain I live with daily. It keeps me from doing activities with my kids where do I turn?

Medical society. You can first ask your friends and family for reccomendations. Then you can call the county or state medical society for the same thing. Read more...
Back pain. The back pain can be caused by muscle strain, spinal stenosis, ruptured disc, nerve impingement ... I recommend you start with your pcp. He/she can start the work-up for your back pain. He/she can also refer you to specialist, such as pain specialist, if needed for additional evaluation. Read more...

I am going to a pain rehab doctor for low back pain what happens during a exam?

History, physical. The doctor will interview about the history of your pain: location, onset, quality, severity, what makes it better or worse, what prior treatments you have had and their effects. The doctor will then examine you, probably doing some special neurologic and muscle tests. Then he or she will review any pertinent data (xrays, mri's etc) that are recent and relevant to your pain. Read more...
Lots of Q and A. The doctor should spend lots of time asking about your symptoms (what causes them, when they're the worst, what provokes them, what makes them better), a good physical exam should follow. Maybe an x-ray. Then, the most important part of the visit: how they're going to try and help you. Ask about therapy, meds, options. Write things down if necessary... Read more...
Will the doc touch u. If the doctor is really good, he or she will touch your body and be able to tell you where your pain comes from by the texture of your injured fascia. Treatment will need to deal with nutrition and inflammatory foods, as well as releasing and healing your injured fascia. Www.blatmanhealthandwellness.com. Read more...

This is the first time I've had low back pain. Will I have to have x-rays on my first visit to the doctor?

No. The recommendations for treatment of low back pain involve identifying a trigger and conservative treatment. Things like anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, heating pads or ice packs, and stretching are first line therapy. If your pain fails to improve then an xray would be considered. Of course, if you have numbness or loss of bladder/bowel control you will most definitely need imaging. Read more...
No. Generally an x-ray is not necessary for your first visit for back pain. The exception might be if you had trauma to your back (car accident, fall from a ladder, etc.) the great majority of the time only conservative measures are needed for back pain, such as anti-inflammatory medications, rest, stretching, and physical therapy. Consult your doctor if your symptoms worsen. Read more...
No. If your doctor determines that you need imaging to better understand your back pain, i strongly recommend getting an MRI rather than xray. Mri is much better at finding the cause. Read more...
Depends. Every person with back pain presents differently. if needed the Dr. will order them. Read more...

Will I need to get an X-ray if I see a doctor for a throbbing low back pain?

Yes. I would definitely x-ray your low back, pelvis, and hips. Of course along with a complete history and physical and possibly other diagnostic modalities. Read more...
See below. In general, for those who strain their backs occasionally, it is not necessary to do an xray or mri. However, if i see someone whose back is not improving after about 6 weeks, i will usually order an xray first. Read more...
Maybe. Unfortunately, xrays of the lumbar spine have a low correlation with the actual cause of the back pain. The radiation exposure is considerable and this test should be used conservatively. Mri has a higher correlation with the cause of pain. This link may be informative: http://www.Lower-back-pain-toolkit.Com/lower-back-pain-investigations.Html. Read more...
Depends. Every person with back pain presents differently. if needed the Dr. will order them. Read more...

I am experiencing low back pain. The following also describes me: Back pain. I need a referral to a pain management doctor. What should I do?

Many people begin. with their own primary care physician. That doctor will assess and offer treatment options. If the situation can't be handled at that provider's level - one possible referral option would be to a pain specialist. Read more...

My son's doctor recommended a dorsal column stimulator for his low back pain. How long do they last and how affective are they?

Variable. A dorsal column stimulator can help in cases of back and leg pain that have poorly responded to advanced treatments such as surgery. If a temporary trial of stimulation demonstrates coverage of the pain regions, then a permanent implant should give good long term relief. They can last for years, but may need reprogramming at different times during treatment. Read more...
Use extreme caution. It is extremely difficult to isolate an anatomic origin for low back pain. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to successfully treat low back pain with invasive measures such as injections or spine surgery, including a dorsal column stimulator. Though back pain can be severe, treating with invasive measures without identifying a definitive pain source can lead to unnecessary risk and poor outcome. Read more...

What can be done for my low back pain while I wait to see the doctor? The pain is severe and is burning down my leg to my knee? Please help

Possible disc. If you have a pinched nerve in your back due to a "slipped disc", you may find relief in a position of low pressure on this disc. You may want to try to lie on your back with your legs bent and resting. Read more...
See below. Rest, heat and gentle stretching may help while you wait to be seen. Read more...
A few things. If nsaids are not helpful, you've exhausted most otc meds. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is an option, but if that does not help please see your doctor for other options. Also physical therapy can be helpful, otherwise a spine specialist evaluations may be needed. Read more...