How is Nerve Pain Diagnosed?

Doctor discussing medical history with patient

Nerve pain affects a growing number of individuals undergoing chemotherapy treatment, living with diabetes or having suffered an injury. An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from peripheral nerve damage, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Nerve damage can cause a tingling, burning sensation in the arms, hands, legs and feet, making it impossible to function on a daily basis.

The causes as to why and how certain patients are susceptible to nerve pain can vary. Even the pain levels or difficulty standing and walking may also differ.

Have you experienced any of the common signs of nerve pain?

  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of balance
  • Numbness

If so, it’s critical to know if this is nerve damage.

Early diagnosis by your physician can improve your functionality and reduce discomfort you feel.

The following are a few exams your physician may conduct to properly diagnosis the symptoms, cause and appropriate treatment for nerve pain.

Review Medical History

The doctor will ask you questions pertaining to your health history and that of your family.  This will include any and all symptoms you may be experiencing — lifestyle, recent exposure to any toxins, etc. The more information you can provide, the better it will be to determine the cause.

Physical Exam

Similar to a routine physical, your doctor will examine for anything out of the ordinary. Certain areas will be looked at more closely, in particular those tender or numb due to nerve pain. It’s common for diabetic patients to feel a greater level of discomfort in their feet.

Blood Tests

A variety of blood tests may be performed to determine the cause of nerve damage. These tests may look for high blood glucose levels, diabetes onset, vitamin deficiencies, etc.

Imaging Tests

Your physician may recommend a CT or MRI scan. This is typically done to see if there are any herniated discs or abnormalities that are causing the nerve damage.

Additional Nerve Function Tests

Nerve conduction studies, including an Electromyogram (EMG) may be performed on individuals suffering with nerve pain symptoms. These studies use electrical impulses to determine the level of damage.

A final diagnosis will be made by your physician through the help of one or all of these tests. Once you are aware of the diagnosis, it will be easier to explore treatment options to reduce your nerve pain. 

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