If you sprain your arm when you fall off your bike, it’s fairly obvious what’s causing your pain. But the source of back-related aches and pains isn’t always as easy to pinpoint. In fact, back pain is often notoriously difficult to accurately diagnose. Below, you’ll find some of the top reasons this is often the case.
Discussing your symptoms in as much detail as possible with your doctor or spine specialist can provide a general idea of what might be going on. This can also help the doctor determine what kind of tests to order. The reason a rundown of symptoms alone doesn’t always result in an accurate diagnosis is because the same symptoms can be associated with many different spine-related problems.
For instance, numbness in nearby areas, shooting pain, and difficulty with standing or mobility in general could be caused by:
• Herniated discs
• Compressed, irritated, or “pinched” nerves
• Spinal fractures
• Age-related disc wear—also referred to as degenerative disc disease
The problem, as shown in the example above, is that different sources of back pain can produce similar symptoms. Therefore, you’ll be less likely to experience meaningful relief if the true source of your symptoms isn’t being treated. For example, if your symptoms are due to a compression fracture in your spine, you may need minimally invasive surgery such as a vertebroplasty procedure. Santa Monica patients with any of the symptoms listed above should see a spine specialist to ensure they receive a proper diagnosis.
Even when diagnostic tests are ordered, the results may be misinterpreted. This can happen for several reasons. One example is a nerve block that could provide a false positive. X-rays can be problematic as well, since they don’t clearly show soft tissue damage that could be contributing to or causing your back pain. MRIs and CT scans are much better at showing soft tissue problems, but it may be difficult to get approval from your insurance provider to have these tests done.
To be fair, diagnostic tests can certainly be beneficial. For instance, the results may confirm a source of back pain that’s suspected based on results from a physical exam and a description of your symptoms. The caveat is that diagnostic tests don’t always provide simple answers, since the spine itself is a complex structure.
It’s understandable to want to fudge the truth a bit if your doctor or spine specialist asks about exercise and diet habits, smoking, posture, and other lifestyle factors. However, by not being forthcoming with what you do on a regular basis, you’ll only be hurting yourself. Rest assured your doctor isn’t looking to judge you. He or she simply wants to get a better idea of what lifestyle-related issues may be contributing to your back pain so he or she can put the pieces of the puzzle together more accurately.
Yes, it can be difficult to diagnose back pain. However, you don’t want to put off seeing your doctor or a spine specialist. Even if there’s an initial trial-and-error process, you’ll ultimately be better off by going through the steps involved to fine-tune your treatment plan and reach a point where your discomfort is manageable or eliminated entirely.
No matter what type of back pain you’re experiencing, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon if you have spine-related discomfort that’s getting progressively worse or doesn’t go away after a few weeks. Knowing the actual source of your back pain is the most effective way to determine the proper method of treatment, so reach out to the pioneering spinal specialists at The Spine Institute. We use the most innovative methods to diagnose and treat all types of back pain. Call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.