Spine Examination

Back pain is one of the most common presentations to general practice and A&E departments worldwide, it is therefore one you should know well.  Common causes of back pain include arthritis, prolapsed disc and muscular injuries, occasionally it can be the underlying cause of other conditions such as sciatica.

The spine examination, along with all other joint examinations, is commonly tested on in OSCEs.  You should ensure you are able to perform this confidently.

The examination of all joints follows the general pattern of “look, feel, move” as well as occasionally special tests.

Subject steps

  1. Start by washing your hands and introduce yourself to the patient. Clarify the patient’s identity and explain what you would like to examine, gain their consent. Ensure the joint in which you wish to examine is appropriately exposed, in this case the patient should be exposed from
    the waist up. You should therefore offer a chaperone.

  2. Allow the patient to dress and thank them.  Wash your hands and report your findings to the examiner

  3. An extension to this station could be to perform an Upper Limb Neurological Examination or Lower Limb Neurological Examination if your findings suggest nerve entrapment from the cervical or lumbar spine.