Living with Chronic Pain

Getting a Chronic Pain Diagnosis


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 and point of pain.

Neurological & Mental Health Exam

You may undergo a series of questions that extend further than a standard physical with an emphasis on habits and pain levels. Those suffering from chronic pain are likely to struggle with their emotional and mental health as a result. 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. Bring a copy of your pain log – a detailed and historical timeline of your pain score, treatments, medications, activity level, mood, and sleep patterns will help your doctor find the best pain management program for your condition.

Diagnostic Imaging Tests (CT, MRI, EMG)

During a CT (computerized axial 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. With an MRI, your doctor will be able to see a complete picture of bones, tissue, and nerves. An EMG focuses on your nerves, sending out electrical signals to determine whether one of your nerve roots is the central cause of your pain.

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