The Importance of a Correct Diagnosis



February 8, 2011

A correct diagnosis to a doctor is kind of like a lighthouse to a sailor. It provides your doctor with guidance regarding how to treat your condition. An accurate diagnosis can help your doctor

  • Figure out what your condition is,
  • Determine the severity of your condition, and
  • Identify the cause of your condition.

Without an accurate diagnosis, your doctor cannot develop a treatment plan that will work for your condition. It’s not exaggerating to say that an effective treatment plan heavily depends on an accurate diagnosis.

On the other hand, a wrong diagnosis will delay your treatment, worsen your condition, and may cause harm to your health. So if you are suffering from a medical condition such as back or neck pain, you should not underestimate the importance of a correct diagnosis.

Back Pain Diagnosis

A doctor generally starts the process of a back pain diagnosis with reviewing the patient’s medical history. At your first visit, your doctor will likely ask you many questions regarding the onset, location, and severity of your back pain. Your doctor will also ask what makes your pain better or worse. In addition, he or she may examine your range of motion.

Depending on your condition, your doctor may also order the following tests to get an accurate back pain diagnosis.

  • X-ray imaging. X-ray images clearly show the bony structure of your back (the spine). X-ray imaging can help your doctor identify if you have bone fractures or other skeletal disorders such as vertebral misalignment.
  • Computed tomography scans. A computed tomography scan (CT scan) is a detailed form of x-ray imaging. It helps your doctor check or confirm if your pain is caused by a disc rupture, spinal stenosis, or a vertebral fracture.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging. This technique provides doctors with high-resolution images of the spine, and it’s considered the gold standard for back pain diagnosis. Because many spinal conditions and diseases can be identified using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), this technique has been widely used by orthopedic doctors for back pain diagnosis. If back surgery is needed, this technique can also help your doctor plan the surgery.
  • Discography. Also known as diagnostic spinal injections, this technique involves injecting a specific dye into the spinal canal. If your back pain is caused by vertebral discs, discography can help your doctor pinpoint the exact disc causing your pain.
  • Blood and urine tests. These tests are sometimes used to determine if your back pain is caused by an infection or other problems such as cancer.
  • Electromyogram. This test can help your doctor identify possible nerve or muscle damages.

Neck Pain Diagnosis

The process of a neck pain diagnosis is very similar to that of a back pain diagnosis. To obtain an accurate neck pain diagnosis, your doctor will

  1. Review your medical history,
  2. Ask you questions regarding the onset, location, and severity of your neck pain,
  3. Perform a thorough physical examination, and
  4. Order additional tests to confirm a neck pain diagnosis

Please keep in mind that whether a treatment plan will work or not depends largely on if the diagnosis is correct. For the sake of your health, you should try your best to make sure your doctor’s diagnosis is correct. If you have doubts about your doctor’s diagnosis, by all means seek a second opinion.