Diagnostic procedures are easy to confuse with therapeutic treatments. Both help relieve pain, but in different ways, because a diagnostic procedure purposefully produces short-term relief. At Spectrum Pain Clinics, Jeffrey Hall, MD, has one goal: To help you feel better. To do that, Dr. Hall must first determine the source of your pain, and he does that with a diagnostic procedure. If you have any questions about an upcoming procedure, call the office in Jackson or Cordova, Tennessee, or book an appointment online.
When diagnosing the cause of your symptoms, doctors rely on a physical exam, blood work, and imaging such as X-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan. While these steps serve a vital role, none of them are precise enough when it comes to interventional pain treatments.
Many of the treatments that Spectrum Pain Clinics offers target a specific nerve. Before your treatment, Dr. Hall must first identify that nerve and then verify that it’s the nerve responsible for your pain. That verification comes from a diagnostic procedure.
Though there are several diagnostic procedures, a nerve root block and a medial branch block are two of the most common. These nerve blocks target different nerves, but Dr. Hall does them the same way.
Dr. Hall injects a local anesthetic directly at the nerve he believes is causing your pain. If your pain improves after the injection, the test verifies that it’s the right nerve. A successful nerve block means the same nerve can receive therapeutic treatment that provides long-lasting relief.
During a diagnostic nerve block, you may receive minimal sedation, but it’s important to stay awake. You need to be able to describe your pain level after the injection and determine how much it improves from your usual pain. Dr. Hall may also ask you to perform movements during or after the procedure to assess the change in your pain.
Looking at their similarities and differences can help you understand why the two are easy to confuse:
Diagnostic procedures and therapeutic treatments can feel like the same thing because they often follow the same steps. Take a diagnostic nerve block and the treatment you receive afterward as an example.
The therapeutic treatment involves inserting a needle in the same spot and guiding it to the same nerve as your diagnostic procedure. However, for your treatment, the needle may deliver steroids. Or it could be a needle-like radiofrequency probe that wounds the nerve with controlled heat.
If your diagnostic nerve block is successful, it might seem like a treatment because it relieves your pain. It produces fast pain relief, and it might make you feel better for a day or two. But the pain relief is not supposed to last, and it typically goes away in 6-12 hours.
By design, therapeutic treatments give you pain relief that lasts anywhere from months to years. But it could take a week or two for the pain relief to take effect, so at first, it won’t seem like much of a treatment.
If you have any questions about a diagnostic procedure or need to schedule an appointment, call Spectrum Pain Clinics, or use the online booking feature.