5 Reasons Back Pain Is Hard To Diagnose

You might have visited several medical professionals for your back pain and had different diagnoses from each. It’s also possible that your diagnosis might have been slow coming.

Why is that? The problem is back pain can be challenging to diagnose. A 10-minute visit to a doctor’s office or a single test is not enough to understand what’s causing back pain.

Read this article to learn why back pain is so hard to diagnose.

The complex Structure Of The Spine

The spine consists of numerous discs, nerves, bones, and ligaments, making it a complex structure. It has 33 vertebrae stacked on top of each other, facet joints, intervertebral discs, and nerves. It’s further divided into five segments, each of which is segmented further.

This structural complexity makes it tricky to point to the exact source of pain. For example, the source might be inside the anatomical structures like joints, vertebral bones, low back muscles, spinal nerve roots, intervertebral discs, or even coming from the organs inside the abdominal cavity.

It’s also possible that the cause might not be medical but psychological. Anxiety, depression, and stress sometimes manifest as bodily symptoms such as back pain.

This makes it hard for your doctor to diagnose back pain, and they’ll need to ask you questions such as, “When did your pain start?”, “Where do you feel pain?”, “How intense is your pain?” to make the right diagnosis.

In some cases, you might need to see a psychologist in addition to a medical professional.

Multiple causes of pain

There are multiple causes of pain. Back pain can be caused by ligament or muscle strain, ruptured or bulging discs, arthritis, osteoporosis, etc. So even when you treat one cause, the pain still might not go away because the real cause was missed.

The Subjectivity Of Back Pain


Lab model of spinal cord

Every individual experiences pain differently. This means that what might be severe pain to one person might feel mild to another. It all depends on the individual’s pain threshold.

So the intensity of pain that you report varies with how you feel it personally. This can sometimes cause your doctor to misdiagnose you.

Inadequate Diagnostic Tests

There are plenty of diagnostic tests for back pain, but a lot of them are unreliable.

Some tests, such as nerve block injections, can give false-positive and false-negative results. This decreases the adequacy of a lot of diagnostic tests.

Secondly, a single diagnostic test cannot accurately diagnose back pain. That doesn’t mean that your medical doctor’s diagnosis is wholly wrong. Some medical conditions like lumbar herniated disc are easy and quick to diagnose through medical imaging scans and clinical tests.

For others, the right diagnosis can be more difficult.

If you’re looking for back pain relief treatment in Edinburgh, we can help. At Active X Backs, we provide you with a back pain specialist who carefully evaluates your condition and provides an effective treatment plan.

We also have a podcast on low back pain and sciatica if you want to learn more about back pain and sciatica. Contact us to get the best back pain treatment in Edinburgh.

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