Pain in the neck or back can develop following injury to the spine or as a result of aging, disc degeneration and arthritis. Herniation of a disc or bone spurs can compress the spinal nerves in the neck or lower back and cause pain to radiate into your arms or legs. This may be associated with numbness or weakness. Symptoms can often be improved simply by time, rest, and common medications such as aspirin or Advil. Exercises, often under the supervision of a physical therapist, may be started and hopefully allow you to return to full activity. If, however, routine treatments are unsuccessful and your symptoms are intolerable, your doctor may recommend further testing to obtain a clear picture of what is causing the pain and to assist in planning further treatment. Routine X-Rays studies are able to produce pictures of the bones of the spine and are often the first test obtained. They may be helpful, but are limited because they are not able to show the discs or spinal nerves. If more detailed information about the bones in a specific region is required, a CT scan may be suggested. Sometimes it is important to visualize all of the bones in your body. If this is required, a bone scan is indicated. The special test most commonly used to image the nerves of the spine is an MRI scan. Often, this is all that is required to understand the problem and plan treatment. Sometimes, in more complex problems such as spinal stenosis and especially in people who have undergone previous surgery, a myelogram combined with a CT scan is needed. A discogram is a test sometimes used in patients with long standing back or neck pain to identify which disc is the cause of your pain and to help plan possible surgery.

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