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Investigations for Pain

Although a number of investigations can be used to help us understand people's pain and its causes, there are some important things to be aware of.  

  • There is, sadly, no scan in existence that shows pain.
  • There is a poor relationship of Xrays and scans to the pain patients feel.  For instance, essentially all people around age 50 have abnormalities in the Xrays and MRI scans of their necks with or without pain.  
  • There is a risk of treating what a scan shows rather than considering this in the context of what the patient is feeling - what may look like significant abnormalities on scan may have no relevance to the pain felt, and being tempted to treat these abnormalities would be harmful.
  • X Rays and CT scans carry significant rIsks from radiation exposure.
  • Plain X Rays of the spine have only a very limited role in the assessment of back pain.


Having said this, there are various investigations which can be of use and which it may be suggested you undergo. Further pages are linked here giving some background information on Plain X Rays, CT Scans and MRI scans and nerve conduction studies.










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Pain Service Website, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Webmaster Dr J G de Courcy, Consultant in Pain Medicine and Anaesthesia
email: pain.webmaster[at]

Page updated 19/02/2016