Diagnosing Back or Neck Pain: Medical History

A physician should begin an initial encounter with a patient by listening to the patient’s chief complaint and a brief statement about why the patient is seeking medical attention. The physician then collects a complete medical history. The medical history should include past medical diagnosis, allergies, current medications taken and previous surgeries. Additionally, the physician should collect a family history as it relates to diseases, as well as a social history. In some cases, physicians will also ask for permission to transfer records of medical tests performed by your previous physicians, especially if the tests have information regarding any current symptoms or conditions. Finally, the physician performs a physical examination.

Why does the doctor need A medical history?

The reason for collecting a medical history during a physical exam is twofold. One reason is to get a picture of your general health. This is the background against which the specific medical complaint is played. The second is to ascertain information about your specific medical issue. The physician collects a family medical history to ascertain genetic factors that could be the cause of current ailments or influence their treatment. Family history, together with social history, is used to prognosticate about future health issues.

Genetic causes of 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 physician will want to know about the location, frequency, severity and nature of discomfort. The physician 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, behavior modification or hot-cold therapy.