Living with Chronic Pain

9 Tests for Diagnosing Chronic Pain


9. Physical Exam

The first test for diagnosing pain is a standard physical exam, which is not to be confused with a neurological exam. This is when your doctor will ask you a series of questions, then test your ability to move your arms and legs through a complete range of motion. From this, the doctor will note any positions where pain is more noticeable or intense.

8. Neurological Exam

This is a much more in-depth physical exam that covers everything from your level of physical feeling to your reflexes. You will also undergo a series of questions that extend further than a standard physical with an emphasis on personal habits and pain scale scores.

7. Mental Health Exam

Those suffering from chronic pain may struggle with emotions, anxiety, and depression. A mental health exam, which may be a part of the neurological exam, will determine if you suffer from mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. It is important to treat mental health concerns and chronic pain symptoms together.

6. Blood Test

Depending on your level of pain, your doctor will order a blood test. Believe it or not, a blood test is able to determine whether you are suffering from a variety of disorders including specific types of arthritis. An infection, which can also cause a great deal of pain, can also be detected through a blood test.

5. Bone Scan

If your pain is focused in a specific area of your back, your doctor may order a bone scan. This is performed by injecting a radioactive solution into a blood vessel. The injected solution contains a special dye that will be absorbed into troublesome areas. The dye illuminates these areas when the scan is being performed.

4. CT Scan

During a CT (computerized tomography) scan, your doctor is able to see a complete picture of the bones, muscle tissue, and nerves. This will allow your doctor to see if the pain is coming from a broken bone or a pinched nerve, for example.

3. MRI

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. Just like with a CT scan, your doctor will be able to see a complete picture of bones, tissue, and nerves. The difference between a CT and a MRI is that a MRI uses powerful magnetic fields rather than x-rays to produce the image.

2. EMG

An EMG, or electromyography, focuses on your nerves, sending out electrical signals to determine whether one of your nerve roots is the central cause of your pain.

1. Nerve Block

If you complain about a specific type of pain, usually focused in the neck or back, and your doctor believes it may involve a nerve, then he/she will order a nerve block. This is where a numbing agent is injected into the nerve that is suspected to be the root of the problem.

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