When you visit a pain management specialist, you will undergo a thorough assessment. The physician will ask you questions about your pain, perform a physical examination and order any necessary studies (x-ray, MRI, etc.). This detailed evaluation will provide your physician most of the necessary information to make a diagnosis for your condition.
However, it is often very difficult and sometimes impossible to be 100% accurate about the diagnosis by this initial assessment. Spinal injections that are typically used to treat pain are also used as a way to diagnose the source of your pain. The pain specialist will perform this injection under live x-ray guidance to precisely place local anesthetic, or numbing medication, around or inside the suspected source of pain. If you obtain significant relief from this injection, it provides your physician with enough information to make an accurate diagnosis.
Once your physician is confident about the diagnosis, you may be a candidate for therapeutic injections or injections that help treat your pain. Most therapeutic spinal injections contain a corticosteroid, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. The purpose of the injection is to place a small amount of this potent anti-inflammatory medication precisely where the pain begins (joint, nerve, etc.) to provide you with pain relief.