Diagnosing back pain — importance of medical history to diagnose pain

If you have scheduled an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of your chronic back pain, you might be surprised when you are asked questions about your medical history. To many patients, medical history might seem unrelated to a current spine condition, but through the following article, you will learn how closely the two are related.

Using medical history to recommend treatments for back pain

Medical history can often be a good indicator of the reason for a certain spine condition, and can also be used to help prevent future spine conditions. For example, if you have a history of obesity that has caused spinal compression and the development of a spine condition, your doctor might use that information to develop a lifestyle change for you to prevent further damage.

Additionally, medical history can be used to determine the type of treatment options available to you. For example, if you have a heart arrhythmia or sleep apnea, you might not qualify for some surgical procedures.

Purpose of collecting medical history for neck or back pain

Many spine conditions are closely related to genetics and various medical conditions. In fact, most spine conditions, unless caused by injury, occur as a result of a medical condition. The most common spine conditions associated with genetic sources include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis

Collecting your medical history will help the physician determine the cause of your pain and the appropriate next step in treatment.

What to expect during your physician appointment

Generally, the physician will begin with a physical exam to check for any physical or neurological symptoms associated with your back pain. The physician might test for radiating pain in the extremities or even use a dermatome map (a map of where our nerves send pain signals out from) to determine the location of the nerve pain in your spine.

Once the information is collected, the physician might order a series of tests, including an MRI test or CT scan, to better evaluate the cause, location and severity of the spine condition. Once the spine condition has been determined and evaluated, the physician can recommend a treatment plan based on the spine condition and the medical history you provided.

Treatment options for back pain determined by medical history

The first method of treatment for back pain is generally a conservative therapy. The most common conservative treatment options include:

  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Massage therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Stretches
  • Low-impact exercises like swimming

Conservative treatments are considered very low-risk and are often safe for most people, regardless of medical history. However, you should consult your physician before beginning any treatment method for back pain to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatment option. If conservative care does not provide you with adequate relief, surgical intervention may become necessary.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures to treat chronic back pain. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a clinically appropriate alternative to open neck or back surgery.^ Contact us today to learn more about our outpatient procedures for relieving back pain.

Since 2005, our minimally invasive procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients find lasting relief from their chronic neck or back pain, setting us apart as the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. Ask our team for a free MRI review* so we can evaluate if you are a candidate for one of our procedures based on your spine condition and medical history.