Steps Toward a Radiculopathy Diagnosis: How to Get Started, Tests You Might Need

Getting a radiculopathy diagnosisPatients with a cervical radiculopathy diagnosis can have similar symptoms to those with a carpal tunnel diagnosis. That is why people who experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in their hand, shoulder, and/or arm should be seen by a doctor to determine the root cause of these problems. A diagnosis consists of reviewing patient history, performing a physical exam, and in some cases EMG testing. Once the cause is determined, a treatment plan can be prescribed.

EMG Testing Can Be One Part of Narrowing a Radiculopathy Diagnosis

The first step in a cervical radiculopathy diagnosis is to review patient history. The patient and doctor will discuss what is going on with their symptoms currently, any illnesses or conditions the patient has, any accidents or injuries suffered by the patient, family history, and a general picture of the patient’s lifestyle. Once all of this information has been gathered, the doctor will perform a physical exam. The doctor will feel the neck, looking for places that are tender or feel irregular. The doctor will also test the arm and hand looking for weakness, checking reflexes, and strange sensations. Range of motion of the head and neck will also be tested. Spurling’s test may also be performed. To do this test, the doctor will compress the cervical spine to see if that can mimic the patient’s symptoms or even make them worse.

The patient history and physical exam can usually provide enough information to come up with a course of treatment. However, if that is not the case or if the patient is not showing signs of improvement with the current course of treatment, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electromyography (EMG) may be done to see what is going on in the body. These test are expensive and uncomfortable, so are usually only done if absolutely necessary. However, an accurate diagnosis is very important for coming up with an effective treatment, especially since there are a few other conditions that have similar signs and symptoms.