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chronic pain

How Doctors Find The Cause Of Pain

Living with chronic pain can be debilitating, especially if you don’t have the answers as to why you’re feeling the way you are. Fortunately, if you are living with pain, there are a variety of things your physician can do to help determine the cause. 

Most likely, your doctor will begin with bloodwork. From there, they may order a number of tests to help diagnose the cause of your pain. We’ve listed the eight most common below, and what you can expect from each of them. 


An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, allows your doctor to see a clear picture of your internal health without the use of X-rays. Using a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer, an MRI takes anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on how many images your physician orders. You may be required to drink a contrast liquid to help produce clearer images. Because MRIs use a magnet, certain patients, such as those with a pacemaker, should not participate. 

CT Scan

CT scans, or Computed Tomography scans, use a combination of computers and X-rays to produce a clear image of a specific cross-section of the body. While the test is happening, you’ll be instructed to lie as still as possible, while the donut-shaped scanning device moves around your body. If it will help create clearer images, your doctor may give you a shot of solution before you begin. Like MRIs, most CT scans can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. 


These tests are used to diagnose patients who are considering surgery for chronic back pain. During the test, your doctor will inject dye into the disc that is suspected of causing your pain. The dye can highlight damaged areas that may be contributing to the problem. 


Another test for back pain, a myelogram involves your doctor injecting dye into your spinal canal in order to identify nerve compression caused by a fracture or herniated disc.

Nerve Blocks

Nerve blocks can not only help diagnose the cause of your pain, they can help treat it as well. During the procedure, your doctor will inject an anesthetic into a nerve location where you most severely experience pain. They may rely on an imaging test to determine the best place to inject the nerve block. Your response to the procedure can inform your doctor on possible causes of pain. 


An EMG, or electromyogram, helps your physician measure muscle activity. They’ll place small needles into your muscles and check their response to electroactivity. 


An ultrasound, sometimes referred to as sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the inside of your body. The sound waves echos are then recorded and displayed as an image in real-time. 

Bone Scan

To help diagnose and keep an eye on infection, doctors use bone scans to measure problems or disorders of the bone. They’ll first inject a radioactive material into your bloodstream. The material collects in your bones and can cluster in areas that aren’t functioning normally, to help your doctor determine the cause of your pain. 

Pain Care At Townsen Memorial

At Townsen Memorial, treating your pain safely, effectively, and affordably is our top priority. We strive to provide the best patient experience across all Townsen Memorial affiliated sites. Our standard of high-quality care starts at our Emergency Room and carries on through our Imaging Centers, Surgery Centers, and through our Hospital. Our medical sites are located in Houston, TX and the surrounding areas, to provide the best care to patients in and around Harris County. To learn more, visit our website or call 1-877-494-9487.