Chronic Pain

Ways to Diagnose Back Pain and Lower Back Pain

Source: WebMD
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How do doctors get to the bottom of your back pain? There are several methods that are used to find out what is causing your pain. To understand these methods, we’ll first need to take a closer look at what back pain is.

What Is Back Pain?

Generally speaking, back pain is exactly what it sounds like. It’s pain in your back, or more specifically, the spine or the tissues and nerves that surround it. Acute back pain is pain that occurs as a result of an injury or overuse. Chronic back pain is a prolonged affair, being defined as pain that lasts more than three months. It may get worse over time or occur again after it seems to get better.


Regardless whether back pain is acute or chronic, it would ideally get better upon the treatment of its underlying cause. They have to find out what’s causing the pain before they can treat it, though.

How They Diagnose Back Pain

There are many methods doctors use to diagnose back pain. Here are some of the main tests to find the cause of back pain:

  • Physical examination- Before any other tests are done, your doctor will usually do a physical examination. This means they check your body for obvious outward signs of injury like swelling or an area that’s holding heat. Your doctor may ask you to perform some physical tasks to evaluate your likelihood of nerve damage. Reflexes will also be tested for this purpose. This examination can help them determine what tests need to be done to find the cause of your pain and may lead to more thorough internal exams.
  • X-Ray- This test is not usually used unless there has been some obvious trauma. This type of image simply doesn’t provide a good picture that allows for the diagnosis of an issue related to back pain.
  • CT scan- This type of scan uses x-rays and computer systems to give doctors a look at the inside of your body. Contrast dye may be used in this type of test to help structures stand out in the pictures.
  • MRI- This type of test is very technologically advanced and expensive to do. Using a combination of strong magnets and computers to put together a comprehensive picture of what’s going on inside the body. This type of test is usually only for long-term back pain due to the expense.
  • Electromyogram- This is a test where small needles are inserted into the muscles to monitor electrical activity. Also known as an EMG, this test allows doctors a definitive diagnosis for nerve damage. It is usually only used to diagnose chronic back pain.