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Assessment and Diagnosis of Pain Disorders. Pain Assessment: Goals. Characterize the pain Identify pain syndrome Infer pathophysiology Evaluate physical and psychosocial comorbidities Assess degree and nature of disability Develop a therapeutic strategy.

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Presentation Transcript
pain assessment goals
Pain Assessment: Goals
  • Characterize the pain
  • Identify pain syndrome
  • Infer pathophysiology
  • Evaluate physical and psychosocial comorbidities
  • Assess degree and nature of disability
  • Develop a therapeutic strategy
comprehensive pain assessment
Comprehensive Pain Assessment
  • History
  • Physical examination
  • Appropriate laboratory and radiologic tests
pain and disability
Pain and Disability


Other physical symptoms

Physical impairment

Neuropathic Psychologic Social isolation

mechanisms processes Family distress

Sense of loss or inadequacy

Adapted with permission from Portenoy RK. Lancet. 1992;339:1026.



pain history
Pain History
  • Temporal features—onset, duration, course, pattern
  • Intensity—average, least, worst, and current pain
  • Location—focal, multifocal, generalized, referred, superficial, deep
  • Quality—aching, throbbing, stabbing, burning
  • Exacerbating/alleviating factors—position, activity, weight bearing, cutaneous stimulation
Nociceptive pain

Neuropathic pain

Idiopathic pain

Psychogenic pain

Commensurate with identifiable tissue damage

May be abnormal, unfamiliar pain, probably caused by dysfunction in PNS or CNS

Pain, not attributable to identifiable organic or psychologic processes

Sustained by psychologic factors

pain assessment tools
Pain Assessment Tools
  • Pain intensity scales
    • Verbal rating
    • Numeric scale
    • Visual analogue scale
    • Scales for children
  • Multidimensional pain measures
    • Brief Pain Inventory
    • McGill Pain Questionnaire
pain syndromes
Acute pain

Chronic pain

Breakthrough pain

Recent onset, transient, identifiable cause

Persistent or recurrent pain, beyond usual course of acute illness or injury

Transient pain, severe or excruciating, over baseline of moderate pain

Pain Syndromes
identify pain syndromes
Identify Pain Syndromes
  • Syndrome identification can direct assessment and predict treatment efficacy
  • Cancer pain syndromes
      • Bone pain
      • Pathologic fracture
      • Cord compression
      • Bowel obstruction
  • Noncancer-related pain syndromes
      • Atypical facial pain
      • Failed low-back syndrome
      • Chronic tension headache
      • Chronic pelvic pain of unknown etiology
neuropathic pain clinical assessment
Neuropathic Pain: Clinical Assessment
  • A comprehensive diagnostic approach to patients affected by neuropathic pain
    • Medical history
    • Examinations: general, neurologic, regional
    • Diagnostic workup: imaging studies, laboratory tests, nerve/skin biopsies, electromyography/nerve-conduction velocity (EMG-NCV) studies, selected nerve blocks
medical history
Medical History

Ask patient about complaints suggestive of

  • Neurologic deficits: persistent numbness in a body area or limb-weakness, for example, tripping episodes, inability to open jars
  • Neurologic sensory dysfunction: touch-evoked pain, intermittent abnormal sensations, spontaneous burning and shooting pains
neurologic and regional examinations
Neurologic and Regional Examinations

In patients with neuropathic pain, examination should focus on the anatomic pattern and localization of the abnormal sensory symptoms and neurologic deficits

diagnostic workup lab tests
Diagnostic Workup: Lab Tests
  • Complete blood cell count with differential, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, chemistry profile
  • Thyroid-function tests, vitamin B12 and folate, fasting blood sugar, and glycosylated hemoglobin
  • Serum protein electrophoresis with immunofixation
  • Lyme titers, hepatitis B and C, HIV screening
  • Antinuclear antibodies, rheumatoid factor, Sjögren’s titers (SS-A, SS-B), antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody
diagnostic workup lab tests14
Diagnostic Workup: Lab Tests
  • Cryoglobulins
  • Antisulfatide antibody titers, anti-HU titers
  • Heavy metals serum and urine screens
  • Cerebrospinal fluid study for demyelinating diseases and meningeal carcinomatosis
diagnostic workup electrophysiologic studies
Diagnostic Workup: Electrophysiologic Studies


  • To localize pain-generator/nerve or root lesion
  • To rule out
    • Axonal vs focal segmental demyelination
    • Underlying small-fiber or mixed polyneuropathy
  • Nerve (eg, sural nerve): to diagnose vasculitis, amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, etc.
  • Skin: to evaluate density of unmyelinated fibers within dermis and epidermis
back pain and sciatica comprehensive assessment
Back Pain and Sciatica: Comprehensive Assessment
  • History
    • Medical
    • Psychosocial
    • Family
    • Previous trials
  • General examination
    • Musculoskeletal
    • Neurologic
back pain and sciatica pain assessment
Back Pain and Sciatica:Pain Assessment
  • Description
  • Duration
  • Intensity
  • Alleviating factors
  • Aggravating factors
assessment of patients with low back hip and leg pain
Assessment of Patients With Low Back, Hip, and Leg Pain
  • Neurologic exam
    • DTRs, strength, sensitivity, gait
  • Regional exam of spine and leg
    • Inspection for scoliosis or skin rash, palpation for bone tenderness
  • Sciatic- and femoral-nerve stretching tests
    • SLR, reverse and contralateral SLR maneuver
assessment of patients with low back hip and leg pain20
Assessment of Patients With Low Back, Hip, and Leg Pain
  • Provocative mechanical joint tests
    • Truncal flexion for discogenic pain or spine instability
    • Truncal extension for facet joint disease
    • Patrick’s maneuver for hip disease (FABER test of both hips for SI joint disease)
back pain and sciatica imaging evaluation
Back Pain and Sciatica: Imaging Evaluation
  • Lumbosacral x-ray studies with flexion/ extension/oblique views
  • MRI of the spine
  • CT with 3-D reconstruction
  • CT plus myelography
assessment of chronic back pain and sciatica diagnostic blocks
Assessment of Chronic Back Pain and Sciatica: Diagnostic Blocks
  • Facet blocks to rule out facet joint pain
  • Provocative diskograms or disk blockade to rule out discogenic pain and pain associated with segmental spinal instability
  • Selective root blocks to determine location of root pain generator
assessment of acute back pain and sciatica red flags

Infection (diskitis, epidural abscess)

Cauda-equina syndrome

Compression Fx

Assessment of Acute Back Painand Sciatica: “Red Flags”


Possible Diagnosis

  • Nighttime pain, fever, weight loss, history of cancer
  • Fever, IV drug abuse
  • Bladder, bowel dysfunction; leg weakness
  • Trauma
back pain and sciatica
Back Pain and Sciatica

MRI of the spine if patient demonstrates

  • “Red flags”
  • Neurologic deficits or progressive neurologic signs and symptoms
  • Pain persisting more than 6 wk
headache evaluation
Headache Evaluation
  • History (duration, onset, frequency)
  • Is there a family history of headache?
  • Are there any known causes of headache?
  • What is the typical location(s)?
  • What does the pain feel like?
  • What makes it worse?
  • What makes it better?
  • What are the results of past evaluations?
  • Are there associated symptoms? Exam findings?
  • What is the patient’s sex?
headache diagnostic red flags
Headache: Diagnostic Red Flags
  • Rash, meningeal signs, or fever
  • Onset after age 50
  • Onset in a person with HIV or cancer
  • Abrupt onset
  • Worsening pain
  • Signs of focal neurologic disease