Back pain is one of the most common maladies reported by patients in the U.S. Research indicates that over one out of every four adults reported experiencing back pain within the last three months; and total direct and indirect costs associated with back pain are estimated to exceed $100 billion annually in America. For some people, these symptoms never seem to subside, which results in chronic pain and discomfort that can have a debilitating effect on a person’s life if a physician or radiologist doesn’t diagnose the condition.
The Difficulty of Diagnosing Back Pain
As physicians know, one of the biggest challenges associated with back pain is that it can be hard to diagnose the specific source of the problem. Frequently, pain is felt by the patient in an area far away from the location of the actual damage or disorder, due to the body’s intricate network of nerves. In some cases, the back muscles and bones are not the source of the condition at all.
When attempting to diagnose back pain, physicians almost always conduct a physical examination of the patient. This exam may involve not only the back, but also other areas of the body. A thorough medical history is usually taken by the doctor or other health care personnel to assist in the diagnosis. And in many instances, radiological diagnostic imaging is used to better identify the origin or cause of the back pain.
MRI: A Valuable Diagnostic Tool
For certain types of back pain, simply prescribing medication, stretching exercises, and/or restricted activity might be adequate. But for low back pain that is potentially associated with a cause other than radiculopathy or spinal stenosis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the lumbar spine can be an effective tool in determining the precise cause of a patient’s back pain. If an MRI is unavailable or contraindicated, computed tomography (CT) scans represent a suitable alternative.
Of course, it is unwise to make a diagnosis related to chronic back pain using an MRI or CT scan alone. A physician must use the information gleaned from these image scans in conjunction with the data compiled in both the physical examination and the patient history. But for cases which present no red flags during a physical exam or in a medical history, diagnostic imaging can provide the doctor with a better idea of what may be causing a patient’s chronic back pain.
How SteleRAD Can Help
SteleRAD is a radiology practice in Florida which is owned and operated by board-certified radiologists. The physicians in the group have been providing thorough and timely interpretations of radiological scans for over four decades. And with SteleRAD’s expertise in advanced teleradiology techniques, our doctors can provide their superior services to imaging centers, hospitals, and physician groups all across the country.