To diagnose the cause of pain, your doctor will take a detailed medical history and do physical examination. Depending on your symptoms and findings of physical examination, the doctor will recommend lab tests.
Pain is a symptom and not a disease. It can be caused by several diverse causes such as headache, fracture and cancer. If you visit a doctor for any painful condition, the doctor will take your history, examine you and do the tests as required.
Medical history: As many diverse conditions can cause pain, your doctor will take a thorough medical history. Some of the questions that the doctor may ask may not seem relevant to you, but they can help in determining the source of your pain.
Some of the questions that your doctor may ask include:
- when did the pain start,
- what makes the pain better or worse,
- if you have had the similar pain before and
- if you have any other complaint or history of recent illnesses and associated symptoms such as coughs, fevers, urinary difficulties or stomach illnesses.
The doctor will do a complete physical examination, but will focus on the site of pain and other associated symptoms. For instance, if you have pain in the abdomen, the doctor will examine the stomach and look for any tenderness or swelling. If you have pain in the leg after injury, the doctor will look for a fracture or sprain. Therefore, depending on what the doctor suspects is wrong with you, he or she may perform examination of systems and organs.
If your history and physical examination is suggestive of some acute pain such as a headache or body pain due to flu like illness, the doctor will not recommend tests. You will be given simple pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for a few days.
Depending on your symptoms and findings from physical examination, the doctor will recommend lab tests. For instance, if your symptoms are suggestive of arthritis, the doctor will take an X-ray of the joint and other perform imaging tests such as CT scan and MRI scan of the joint and blood tests such as rheumatoid factor. If you have symptoms suggestive of appendicitis, the doctor will recommend ultrasound of the abdomen to look for appendix and blood tests for infection. Likewise, if you have severe and persistent headache, the doctor will do imaging tests such as CT scan and MRI scan of the brain to diagnose the cause.
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