Back Pain: Making a Diagnosis with a Thorough Medical History

Making a diagnosis of the cause of back pain involves taking a thorough medical history. The doctor will want to know which medications the patient is currently taking, how long they have been having their back pain, and what other medical conditions the patient has. Back problems present differently - some come on slowly and progress gradually, while others come on suddenly, making it difficult to sit up straight or to walk a significant distance without doubling over in pain. Sometimes, the symptoms associated with back pain are restricted to the level of the back (lower, middle, upper) where the problem is, and sometimes the symptoms radiate along the length of the back, or from one point on down one of both legs. The symptoms of back pain may also include the actual pain itself, or other neurologic symptoms such as burning, numbness, and tingling in the legs. Click here for a list of symptoms and possible/likely causes.

Back Pain: Making a Diagnosis with a Thorough Medical History
The doctor may be closer to making a diagnosis after he obtains the following information about your back and your back problem:
  • A description of your back pain along with when and how it started.
  • The severity of your symptoms.
  • The location of your symptoms and which side(s) of the body the symptoms radiate.
  • What types of activities or levels of physical exertion makes back symptoms better or worse.
  • The type of symptoms you are experiencing.
v The most common back problem patient's experience which prompts them to make a doctor appointment is back pain. It just hurts, what else do you need to know? Actually there are several different types of back pain symptoms. The types of symptoms that patients have may indicate which section and structures of the spine are affected, and if the back pain you are experiencing is a result of aging or possible a disease condition. Back pain symptoms may include sudden, jabbing pain when bending or lifting, stiffness that lasts for about 30 minutes after getting up in the morning, and pain in the buttock, leg or thigh when standing and walking. The type of symptoms you are experiencing and areas of the back and body that are affected may indicate the type of condition the patient has for example, let's look at back pain that doesn't seem to be affected for better or worse through changes in activity or level of exertion. Usually, patients with back pain are likely to feel better or worse through bed rest, changes in activity, or level of physical exertion(such as lifting moderately large objects or working out). Pain that is felt deep inside the back that doesn't correlate with rest or activity indicates bowel inflammation, endometriosis, menstrual cramps, or constipation as possible or likely causes.

After getting a detailed profile of the back related symptoms you are currently experiencing, your doctor may ask about past medical problems that may or may not be related to joint pain. Have you experienced joint pain or aches in other body joints, and have you been diagnosed previously with arthritis or other musculoskeletal disorders? Have you had unexplained weight loss. Have you ever had cancer, or does your family have a history with cancer?

Next, read more about medical history and what other information to provide your doctor when providing a medical history.