To diagnose a spinal cord injury, you must get a physical examination. Within this exam, you will be tested on your sensitivity to touch for the doctor to see whether your arms and legs are still healthy. Additionally, they will determine whether you still have any muscle reflexes or strength. You may potentially be asked to wear a cervical collar for immobilization reasons until your doctor has a final determination on whether or not you are suffering from a spinal cord injury.
The next step of a diagnosis is to get an X-ray on either your neck or back area. This will help the doctor figure out if your vertebrae are dislocated or fractured. However, there is still a chance of a spinal cord injury without having any injury done to the vertebrae. X-rays may also be able to determine if you have a tumor, infection, or intense arthritis.
The final step is to take a computed tomography (CT) scan. This will give the doctor a clearer view of your vertebrae. Generally, CT scans have better visuals compared to what X-rays have to offer. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is also another option to consider. This is an advanced approach to identifying a spinal cord injury. MRI excels at finding damage in soft tissues, such as the nerves, ligaments and intervertebral discs, and spinal cord.