Diagnosing neck and back pain — the importance of a medical history review

A doctor should begin an initial encounter with a patient by listening to the patient’s chief complaint and why he or she is seeking medical attention. The doctor then collects a complete medical history. The medical history should include past medical diagnosis, allergies, current medications taken and previous surgeries. Additionally, a doctor should collect a family history as it relates to diseases, as well as a social history. In some cases, permission to transfer records of medical tests by previous physicians will be requested, especially if the tests have information regarding any current symptoms or conditions. Finally, doctors will typically perform a full physical examination.

Why does the doctor need a medical history?

There are two primary reasons for collecting a medical history during a physical exam. One is to get a picture of your general health. This is the background against which the specific medical issue can be put into context. The second is to gather information about your condition. The physician collects a family medical history to discover genetic factors that could be the cause of current problems and possibly help direct treatment. Family history, together with social history, is used to try and find future health issues.

Genetic contributors to back pain

Genetics play a huge role in determining our physical condition and predisposition to certain diseases and injuries. Some back conditions that can involve genetic factors include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Scoliosis

Using medical history to review symptoms and determine treatment

Part of the medical history involves a series of questions about your recent pain. Usually, a doctor will want to know about the location, frequency, severity and nature of discomfort. Physicians will also ask if any particular movements make the pain better or worse. Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, your physician will likely design a plan of conservative treatment to help relieve your pain. This might include physical therapy, pain medication, lifestyle changes or hot/cold therapy.

Surgery may become an option if conservative treatments have been exhausted without bringing the relief required to comfortably engage in everyday activities. If you are in this situation, reach out to the caring team at Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the advantages our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery can offer.

Ask for your no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.