The Difficulty with Diagnosing Back Pain

Obstacles of Diagnosing Back Pain in Santa Monica, CA

Back pain affects approximately 80 percent of all adults at some point. Yet it’s not easy to diagnose a specific source of lingering or recurring back pain that’s not linked to a traumatic injury. Even with conditions like spinal stenosis and sciatica, there are times when it’s difficult to pinpoint the source of a patient’s discomfort.

Disagreement Over a Diagnosis

It’s not unusual for Beverly Hills spine surgeons to have differing opinions, even when looking at the exact same MRI or x-ray results. With a lumbar disc herniation, for example, there could be contributing factors to back pain that aren’t visible on test results.

Pain Occurring Away from the Source

The area where a patient experiences pain isn’t necessarily the location of the source of the discomfort, which can make it difficult to pinpoint the true source of pain. With some disc problems, for instance, a nerve in the lower back is pinched and pain is felt in the legs.

Different Reactions to Treatment

Patients with the same identifiable source of back pain don’t always react in the same way to treatment. One patient may respond well to physical therapy for their discomfort and another may feel better after a little rest and an ice pack on the affected area.

Back Pain Is Highly Subjective

Treatment for back pain is based on how patients describe their level of pain. Testing can show the exact same possible source of discomfort, however, one person may report severe back pain and another may report little or no pain. Doctors determine their recommended approach to treatment based on what patients report, emphasizing the fact that there is no single proven remedy for back pain other than whatever provides meaningful relief for each patient.

Due to the difficulty in diagnosing most forms of back pain, conservative spine treatments like heat and ice therapy or physical therapy are often recommended during the initial trial and error treatment phase. It’s only when back pain becomes progressively worse or fails to respond to initial treatments that surgery becomes an option, assuming that an accurate diagnosis is made with a fair degree of certainty.

For individuals living with chronic back pain, it may be time to speak with a spine specialist to discuss options for pain relief. From conservative approaches like physical therapy to minimally invasive spinal surgery, a board-certified spine surgeon can provide you with the best options for meaningful relief.