When it comes to back and neck pain, there are few, if any, definitive tests that can accurately measure and diagnose the experience. Using an objective testing method such as an MRI or CT scan is nearly impossible when it comes to back and neck pain. Pain levels fluctuate, in terms of timing, intensity, and quality, which makes an MRI or CT scan pretty useless to get a true picture of what someone experiences on a day to day basis.
Preparing for the important conversation with your doctor comes as a big responsibility for you then. You have to let your doctor know all about the pain you are experiencing. One thing that can help is keeping a pain journal for about a week or weeks leading up to the appointment. Below are some important bits of information your doctor is going to want to understand during the diagnostic process.
Describe the pain
The quality of your pain may mean something about what is causing it. Trying to be as descriptive as possible when it comes to the pain you are feeling. Make sure to share if it is aching, burning, stabbing, throbbing, sharp, dull, cramping, or electrical sensations. The more expansive you can be with your language while keeping it accurate, the better your communication with your doctor will likely be.
It is also important to point out or explain exactly where you are feeling the pain. Sometimes where you are feeling the pain may not be exactly where it is coming from. If a nerve root is damaged the pain may radiate down an arm or leg but the arm or leg may not be the problem. If you have trigger points you may experience referred pain or pain located in an area that seems unrelated to the site of the problem.
It is also important to clarify the time of your pain. Note if it comes on suddenly or slowly over time, and if it is constantly present or only sometimes. Note if the pain is worse in the morning or at night. Also note if it gets better or worse after doing a specific activity such as sitting, standing, laying down or walking.
It is also important to let your doctor know if there are certain things you cannot do anymore because of the pain. If now you can’t take the stairs or if sleep has become troublesome are things your doctor will want to know.
Keeping a chronic pain journal will help you describe your symptoms to your doctor so they can more easily come up with a treatment plan for you. There are a variety of interventional therapies for people who suffer from acute or persistent pain. Being able to narrow down what could have caused your pain can help your appointment go as smoothly as possible.