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Why Are Chronic Back Pain Conditions Difficult to Diagnose?

It can be difficult to diagnose the cause of chronic back pain because there are many causes that are not all directly linked to an underlying disease. A standard method of diagnosing the source of back pain is to use an injection to numb a specific nerve or cluster of nerve and see if that relieves the pain. If it does, we can confirm that this is where the pain is coming from and start working on a more long-term treatment plan. However, many patients and their doctors prefer non-medication treatments for back pain[MB1] before resorting to interventional treatments like injections.

Common Causes of Back Pain

Many things can cause back pain, including spine-related problems, like herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis. Accidents or injuries can also lead to back pain and aggravate any existing back pain conditions you already have. Some of the traumatic injuries that can cause back pain include vertebral fractures, sprains and strains, or spams. Other causes of back pain are medical conditions such as arthritis, scoliosis, or a tumor. Less common causes of back pain include having kidney stones, endometriosis, osteomyelitis, or fibromyalgia.

What Is Causing My Back Pain?

Prior to starting treatment, your orthopedic surgeon will take a physical exam and take your medical history. The goal is to diagnose your condition, which may involve several imaging studies that show your doctor the condition of your bones, intervertebral discs, nerve roots, and more. Your doctor will locate the problem by using several imaging studies.

Common imaging studies doctors use to diagnose back pain include:

  • X-rays show the doctor images of the spinal bones called vertebrae. X-rays are often ordered for spinal instability, tumors, and fractures.
  • CT scans are similar to X-rays but are much more detailed. CT scans provide your doctor details about the vertebrae with cross-section images. Doctors will often recommend CT scans for suspected spinal conditions like herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
  • MRI scans show your doctor what images of the intervertebral discs and nerve roots. They are used to assess certain conditions and to rule out spinal infections or tumors.

Making a Back Pain Treatment Plan

Depending on the cause of your back pain, treatment will vary. There are many causes of chronic back pain, and many patients have a combination of problems that causes theirs. For example, patients who suffer whiplash in a car accident may have a herniated disc and whiplash simultaneously, both of which can cause pain. Treatment may involve a combination of non-invasive, interventional, and surgical techniques, with spine surgery as a last resort.

Are you suffering from back pain but have no answers? Contact Comprehensive Spine Institute today to schedule a back pain consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists by calling (727) 300-2537.

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