Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyChronicPainTeam
Powered By

Chronic Pain – The Path to Diagnosis

Medically reviewed by James Cyriac, M.D.
Written by Kelly Crumrin
Updated on August 10, 2021

In many people, chronic pain is never diagnosed as a disorder on its own. The underlying condition that is causing the pain may be diagnosed and treated, but the pain may not be adequately addressed. Other people spend years visiting different doctors without receiving either a diagnosis or effective treatment.

Chronic pain may be diagnosed by a pain management specialist. Conditions that cause chronic pain may be diagnosed by rheumatologists, gynecologists, neurologists, gastroenterologists, and many other types of doctors.

How Is Chronic Pain Diagnosed?

There is no one test that is conclusive for a diagnosis of chronic pain. Chronic pain is generally diagnosed through a combination of a thorough medical history and physical examination with the possible addition of other tests.

Medical History

The doctor will ask questions about the history of your pain symptoms and how pain affects your daily life, including sleep, work, household tasks, and relationships. They may ask questions to determine your psychological state – whether you feel depressed or anxious, your stress level and how you manage stress. They will do a pain assessment to determine your pain level and may ask you to fill out a questionnaire called a pain inventory.

Physical Exam

The doctor may perform a physical exam, focusing on the area where you feel pain.

Neurological Exam

The doctor may perform a neurological exam to check for signs of nerve damage. A neurological exam can include checking the movements of the eyes, measuring reflex responses, and looking for weakness or lack of coordination in the limbs. The doctor may test for loss of sensation by touching various parts of your body with a vibrating tuning fork, or sharp or dull items. The neurological exam provides an objective assessment of signs and symptoms that may indicate a neuropathic condition.

Neurophysiological Tests

The doctor may perform neurophysiological tests to examine how your nerves function. Electromyography (EMG) involves inserting a small needle electrode into a muscle to record how nerve signals move through the muscle. A nerve conduction study (or nerve conduction velocity test) involves placing patches with electrodes in two spots on your skin. A very low level of electrical current is generated at one patch. The other patch records how long it takes for the signal to travel between the two locations.

Other Tests

Depending on what type of chronic pain you have, you may have already received imaging scans and lab tests. The doctor may review previous test results or order more studies. Imaging procedures include X-rays, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Blood tests can check overall levels of inflammation by examining erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR, or sed rate) and C-reactive protein (CRP). At elevated levels, both ESR and CRP are considered signs of inflammation and can indicate whether an inflammatory condition is likely.

Condition Guide

Updated on August 10, 2021

A MyChronicPainTeam Member

I want to try Dr. Hoe's Vibrator. My chiropractor sad that I have arthritis in my neck. I also want to get it for my adult son who has issues with his back.

posted May 17, 2023
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

We'd love to hear from you! Please share your name and email to post and read comments.

You'll also get the latest articles directly to your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

Subscribe now to ask your question, get answers, and stay up to date on the latest articles.

Get updates directly to your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
James Cyriac, M.D. is assistant clinical professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at UC Irvine Health. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

Recent Articles

MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...

Crisis Resources

MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...
Welcome to MyChronicPainTeam — the place to connect with others living with chronic pain. This v...

Getting Started on MyChronicPainTeam (VIDEO)

Welcome to MyChronicPainTeam — the place to connect with others living with chronic pain. This v...
This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which can give you mor...

Self-Kindness When Struggling: 6-Minute Guided Meditation

This is a short guided meditation by Dr. Christiane Wolf on self-kindness, which can give you mor...
If you’re living with chronic pain, you’re already aware of the impact the condition can have on ...

Chronic Pain Awareness: How To Get Involved

If you’re living with chronic pain, you’re already aware of the impact the condition can have on ...
Chronic pain comes in many varieties. People with chronic pain often experience other symptoms th...

Symptoms of Chronic Pain

Chronic pain comes in many varieties. People with chronic pain often experience other symptoms th...
There are several different ways to categorize types of chronic pain. Chronic pain may be classif...

Types of Chronic Pain

There are several different ways to categorize types of chronic pain. Chronic pain may be classif...
MyChronicPainTeam My chronic pain Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close