Testing Methods: Diagnosing Chronic Pain

Diagnosing chronic pain isn’t always easy. Physicians will have to go through several processes to find the cause of the pain. This process can be daunting for patients. Many patients may even consider giving up on their search. If a physician isn’t a specialized pain doctor, there may be some inaccuracies in diagnosing chronic pain. Many diseases and disorders would have to be eliminated during the process. Sometimes, the origin of the pain may never be discovered. Here are the four most common types of chronic pain and the process of diagnosing.

Joint Pain and Arthritis
Joint pain is often caused by some form of arthritis. Your physician will take into account your symptoms before performing a physical exam. During the physical exam, you’ll be checked for swollen joints and loss of motion.

An X-ray can be performed to diagnose osteoarthritis by detecting a loss of cartilage, joint friction or bone spurs. A blood test is often used to detect rheumatoid arthritis antibodies and to rule out any other disorders. Infectious arthritis can be detected by taking a sample of fluid from the affected joint.

Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to detect due to several other chronic illnesses mimicking its symptoms. There is no one true test to determine if a person has fibromyalgia. Your physician will ask for your symptoms If you’re suspected of having fibromyalgia, you’ll receive tests to eliminate other forms of chronic pain.

A neurological test will be used to rule out multiple sclerosis, X-rays will eliminate the idea of tissue damage and blood work will rule out rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. A blood test can check for anemia – which causes fatigue. You may get your kidney, liver, cholesterol and calcium levels checked. Your thyroid will be checked to detect if it’s overactive or underactive.

Once ruling out other disorders, your symptoms can properly be compared to fibromyalgia symptoms that may include:

  • Pain in all quadrants of the body
  • Numbness or tingling in face and extremities
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Severe fatigue
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Jaw or facial tenderness
  • A sense of swelling without the actual swelling

Neuropathic
Your physician will ask for a description of your symptoms. If your physician suspects nerve damage, he or she may use conduct an electromyogram (EMG) to check the muscle’s electrical activity. Reduced activity will suggest nerve damage. Another form of the EMG will involve placing electrodes on two points of your body. The MRI can produce a 3D image of the nerve to identify the damage. Additional test, including a CT scan or X-ray, may be provided to rule out any other causes including a tumor or multiple sclerosis

Back Pain
A physician will ask about a patient’s medical history before beginning any further process. The questions may or may not relate to you. It is simply a way to determine the source of the pain.

The second round of questions will involve your physical activity. Have you been lifting heavy objects? Did you just start a new workout routine? Did the pain come gradually? Has the pain gotten better or worse? You will be asked about any possible illnesses you may have had recently.

Your physician will give you a physical exam. He or she will look for any nerve damage, tissue damage or muscle strain. Depending on their findings, your physician may conduct a pelvic or a rectal examination. Don’t worry. This is only to check for diseases that can impact the nerves in your spinal cord that can lead to pain.

An X-ray, MRI or CT scan may be performed. This will help detect damage in the bone and tissue. Physicians will be able to see if there are any muscle, ligament or tendon issues along with bulging disk.

Regardless of how many procedures your physician performs, don’t give up. You’ll receive the most proper and effective treatment. Remember, diagnosing chronic pain isn’t always easy.

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