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Chronic Pain - Exams and Tests

Your doctor will take a detailed medical history, asking you questions about your overall health; past illnesses, surgeries, or injuries; and your pain. He or she may ask you to start keeping a pain diary(What is a PDF document?).

Physical exam

In your physical exam, your doctor will look for areas that are tender, weak, or numb. The doctor will also check for health problems that contribute to chronic pain, such as:

  • Nervous system problems. You may be asked to do a few physical tasks, such as walking up and down a hall or getting up from a chair. By checking your reflexes and your ability to feel light touch, your doctor can look for a nerve problem. The doctor may also ask you to repeat a series of numbers or to answer simple questions about dates, places, and current events.
  • Mental health problems. A mental health assessment involves asking you questions to help your doctor find out whether such conditions as depression, insomnia, or stress are contributing to or happening as a result of your chronic pain. These conditions often occur with chronic pain. You may also be asked about your use of alcohol and drugs. Answering these questions fully and honestly may help your doctor and you identify the sources of your chronic pain.

Tests

One or more of these tests may help your doctor rule out health problems that can cause chronic pain.

  • Blood tests or other lab tests: A small sample of your blood is taken and then checked to see if you have an infection or other condition that could be causing your pain.
  • X-rays or other imaging tests (such as CT scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds): These tests take pictures of the inside structures of your body to look for disease and injury.
  • Electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies or other nerve tests: These tests measure muscle and nerve function to find out whether your chronic pain is related to muscle or nerve problems.
  • Angiogram or other studies of your blood vessels: This test injects a dye and inserts a small tube into your arteries to trace the movement of blood within your body.
  • Diagnostic nerve blocks: One example is an injection of a local anesthetic into or around a nerve to identify whether that nerve is causing the pain.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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