Diagnosing neck or back pain — questions to expect from your physician

If you are experiencing chronic neck or back pain and you have scheduled an appointment with your physician to discuss your symptoms, you might be required to undergo a physical examination as well as a review of your medical history.

Neck and back pain can be caused by several factors ranging from genetics to lifestyle or injury. The more information your physician has about your symptoms and your medical history leading up to the start of your symptoms, the more accurate diagnosis your physician can make. Additionally, medical questions and history will help your physician determine the best course of treatment for your pain relief and condition.

Questions to help determine the cause of your neck or back pain

Some questions might seem routine, such as, “When did your pain start?” and “Was it gradual or sudden pain?” However, these questions serve an important purpose in helping your physician diagnose your condition. For example, if you say that your neck pain began gradually and has slowly worsened, your physician might suspect a spine condition. If you state that your neck pain appeared yesterday and was extremely painful and stiff, your physician might check you for an illness or disease, such as meningitis. Sometimes the seemingly simple questions offer the most important information about your condition.

Some questions about your medical history might determine the type of treatment options available to you. Most people expect to be diagnosed and given a treatment recommendation at the doctor’s office. Questions such as, “Do you have any history of heart disease?” can help determine whether or not you are a good candidate for spine surgery or TENS treatment.

Because the medical history and question portion of the examination is important, you must always be truthful with your answers. Your physician will need all relevant information to determine the cause of your condition and the appropriate steps for treatment.

Physical examination to determine the cause of your neck or back pain

Most physicians will also conduct a physical examination to determine the cause of your neck or back pain. This is especially true for patients who only experience radiating pain in the limbs and not local pain in the neck or back.

For example, if a patient complains of pain in the left arm, left side of the jaw and left side of the face, the physician will likely perform a brief neurological test to determine if the pain is caused from a pinched nerve in the neck, a cardiac condition or a stroke. In many cases, a physical examination helps the physician to narrow down the cause of the symptoms and determine the best route for treatment.

If you would like to learn more about the most common spine conditions and the associated symptoms of each condition, please contact our care team at Laser Spine Institute for more information. Our goal is to provide you with information about spine conditions and the treatment options available so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.