Musculoskeletal symptoms of pain affect the muscles, ligaments and tendons, and bones.
The causes of musculoskeletal symptoms vary. Wear and tear from daily activities can cause damage to muscle tissues. Musculoskeletal conditions can arise from trauma such as sudden jerking from an auto accident or a fall. Other causes include postural strain, repetitive or overuse injury or prolonged immobilization. Poor posture or poor body mechanics may lead to spinal alignment problems and muscle shortening. This can cause other muscles to be improperly used and become painful.
A symptom of muscle strain may be an excruciating spasm in the back that is very painful. Some people may describe it as feeling like an entire body ache. Muscles may feel as if they are overworked or pulled. Symptoms may be pain, fatigue or sleeplessness.
Outlined below are some of the diagnostic tools that your physician may use to gain insight into your condition and determine the best treatment plan for your condition.
- Medical history: Conducting a detailed medical history helps the doctor better understand the possible causes of your back and neck pain which can help outline the most appropriate treatment.
- Physical exam: During the physical exam, your physician will try to pinpoint the source of pain. Simple tests for flexibility and muscle strength may also be conducted.
- X-rays are usually the first step in diagnostic testing methods. X-rays show bones and the space between bones. They are of limited value, however, since they do not show muscles and ligaments.
- Weight-bearing MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to generate highly detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Since X-rays only show bones, MRIs are needed to visualize soft tissues like discs in the spine. This type of imaging is very safe and usually pain-free.
- Electrodiagnostics: Electrical testing of the nerves and spinal cord may be performed as part of a diagnostic workup. These tests, called electromyography (EMG) or somato sensory evoked potentials (SSEP), assist your doctor in understanding how your nerves or spinal cord are affected by your condition.
- Bone scan: Bone imaging is used to detect infection, malignancy, fractures and arthritis in any part of the skeleton. Bone scans are also used for finding lesions for biopsy or excision.
- Discography is used to determine the internal structure of a disc. It is performed by using a local anesthetic and injecting a dye into the disc under X-ray guidance. An X-ray and CT scan are performed to view the disc composition to determine if its structure is normal or abnormal. In addition to the disc appearance, your doctor will note any pain associated with this injection. The benefit of a discogram is that it enables the physician to confirm the disc level that is causing your pain. This ensures that surgery will be more successful and reduces the risk of operating on the wrong disc.
- Injections: Pain-relieving injections can relieve spine or musculoskeletal pain and give the physician important information about your problem, as well as provide a bridge therapy.