Back and neck pain are exceedingly common health problems, which, unfortunately, are quite difficult to diagnose. This is owed to the fact that there are no established protocols or guidelines that guarantee an accurate evaluation. Furthermore, a typical doctor’s visit that’s about 15 to 30 minutes long is almost never enough to fully understand, explain, and evaluate a complex affection such as back pain.
Finding the root cause of your neck and back pain requires a lot of expertise, time, and collaboration between you and your pain treatment specialist. Finding a trusted board-certified back pain specialist in West Orange is crucial in getting an accurate diagnosis.
So, to help you understand how complex a back pain can be, we’re going to discuss the main reasons that make it difficult to diagnose.
Why Is Back Pain Difficult to Diagnose?
When it comes to neck and back pain, Identifying the underlying condition that causes the pain can be quite tricky. There are many different health problems that can lead to acute and chronic back pain such as:
- Problems with certain anatomical structures such as lower back muscles, spinal nerve roots, intervertebral discs, vertebral joints and bones, and even organs that are found in the abdominal cavity.
- In some cases, the brain might receive abnormal signals from the nerves resulting in a condition that back pain specialists refer to as neuropathic back pain.
- Certain psychosocial factors such as depression, anxiety, and stress can also lead to severe back pain.
Your back pain might be triggered by one of the factors mentioned above or by a combination of factors. For instance, we’ve had patients who suffered from spinal stenosis and a herniated disc. Both conditions can cause severe back pain. Because the treatment options vary for both of these conditions, only a back pain specialist will know what the best course of action is. An inaccurate treatment can do much more harm than good, which is why it’s very important to see a pain treatment specialist as soon as you realize that you are dealing with persistent back pain.
How to Get an Accurate Neck and Back Pain Diagnosis in West Orange?
Most patients deal with uncomplicated neck and lower back pain that does not require a complicated diagnostic process. But, in certain cases, when patients have underlying medical problems, the pain treatment specialists will have to run different tests in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. This will allow them to recommend an effective treatment based on the patient’s needs.
The medical diagnosis, which is often referred to as clinical diagnosis, serves to determine the underlying causes that trigger neck and back pain. Back pain treatment specialists find these underlying causes through one or more of the following diagnostic techniques:
- A physical examination – The physical examination is performed by the pain treatment specialist in the clinic and will generally include a visual inspection of the affected area and of your overall posture, a hands-on inspection that consists of palpating the painful areas, motion tests meant to check the alignment and mobility of your joints, an examination of the spinal segments, and a neurological examination to test your reflexes, your muscle strength, and your cranial nerves.
- A review of your medical history – The back pain physician will ask you a series of questions. Your answers will help him/her have a better understanding of your condition. You will probably answer questions like: “When did your pain start?”; “Do you have other symptoms?”; “What Is the intensity of the pain?”; “What activities alleviate your pain?”; “What activities trigger or worsen your pain?; and so on. The pain treatment specialist will also analyze your medical history and records.
- Diagnostic testing –If the pain treatment specialist needs more information to accurately diagnose your condition, he/she may request additional studies such as diagnostic injections, electrodiagnostic testing, or diagnostic imaging. Diagnostic tests are an efficient way to find the underlying causes of back and neck pain. Our pain treatment specialists use them all the time. But, as we mentioned before, back pain can be caused by a wide range of issues, so a single diagnostic test can sometimes be insufficient. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our pain treatment specialists won’t diagnose your back condition effectively, it only means that it will take a bit longer. The good news is that the majority of conditions that lead to back pain such as sciatica and lumbar herniated discs that can be diagnosed quickly and accurately with medical imaging scans, questions, and clinical tests.
What Are the Most Common Diagnostic Imaging Studies for Back Pain?
The most common imaging studies that our back pain specialists recommend include:
- MRI Scans– These imaging tests are a common option that’s often used to assess the spine and the soft tissue such as the nerve roots and the discs. MRI scans help pain treatment specialists differentiate between acute and chronic conditions. If you’ve had spine surgery in the past, you might be recommended an MRI with a contrast dye injection. This will help the back pain doctor analyze the blood flow in the affected region.
- X-rays – These imaging tests show all of the details of the spine’s bony structures. X-rays are extremely useful in identifying fractures and degenerative changes and can help pain treatment specialists identify osteoarthritis and other types of rheumatological conditions. If the back pain doctor suspects that you might be dealing with spinal instability, he/she will order a flexion and extension x-ray.
- CT scans – When back pain specialists need to get a better view of the soft tissue, and MRIs are not an option, a CT scan will be performed. This imaging test uses radiation to create several cross-section images. The doctor can also recommend a CTmyelography or myelogram, which consists of having dye injected into the spinal canal.
Dr. George Hannah, Dr. Laura Lombardi, and Dr. Shane J. Volney of Pain Treatment Specialists will accurately diagnose the conditions that lead to your back pain. They will also offer minimally-invasive treatment options that will relieve your back pain quickly and effectively. At Pain Treatment Specialists, our main goal is to help you get rid of neck and back pain without narcotics and surgery. Come meet our Harvard-trained specialists in our West Orange, New Jersey clinic, near the Essex Country Club.