Chronic low back pain is defined as back pain that lasts longer than three months. During the pain evaluation process, it is important to rule out any injuries or diseases that could place you at risk of further injury if not treated or addressed. Clarification of the diagnosis is a key step in creating a pain management program.
Patient History & Physical Exam
A good patient history and a thorough physical examination by a well-trained physician are the most important aspects of the evaluation. Serious injuries and illnesses can often be diagnosed or ruled out based on the history and physical examination alone. However, lack of a definite diagnosis does not necessarily mean more testing is needed. Needless tests do not add anything to what your health care provider has already discovered in his or her physical examination. Unnecessary testing is not only expensive – it could expose you to unnecessary risks or radiation.
If your health care provider feels that more testing is needed based on your history and physical examination findings, he or she will discuss with you the appropriate tests to be ordered. Testing may include blood tests, radiography (X-ray films), bone scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diagnostic injections, electromyography (EMG) and many other specialized tests. Many times, the exact cause of the pain is still not well defined at the end of the evaluation. Nevertheless an evaluation is successful if it has ruled out those processes that could place you at risk if not treated.