Neurology Insights

Decoding Chronic Pain

Man on stairs struggling with Chronic Pain before seeing a Neurologist for a diagnosis

The Nature of Chronic Pain

If you know someone living with chronic pain, you may be familiar with the toll it can take on one’s everyday life. Chronic pain is a persistent, abnormal type of pain that interferes with daily activities. Many patients with chronic pain often describe their symptoms as physically and emotionally debilitating.

What makes chronic pain symptoms worse is that pinpointing and managing can be tricky. Many individuals spend months self-managing or self-medicating before seeking a proper diagnosis.

The first step to living a pain-free life is addressing chronic pain as early as possible. If you or a loved one may be experiencing long-lasting pain symptoms, don’t delay! Being proactive can help prevent the cycle of pain known as the “terrible triad;” a set of symptoms ranging from suffering to sleeplessness and sadness.

What are the symptoms of Chronic Pain?

The effects of chronic pain vary from person to person, but your neurologist will typically look for the following criteria:

  • Persistent pain lasting anywhere from 3 months or longer
  • Lingering pain as a result of an accident, illness, or injury
  • Underlying pain from a previously known (or unknown) medical condition
  • Mild to moderate or severe pain that affects and interferes with daily life
  • Sensations of soreness, tightness, sharpness, or shooting aches that do not go away with time or over-the-counter treatment  

What conditions are typically associated with Chronic Pain?

For some patients, chronic pain symptoms may be a result of an underlying health condition or disease, some of which include:

  • Chronic Migraine
  • Back Injury
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis
  • Herniated Disk
  • Neuropathy
  • Sciatic Nerve Problems
  • Immune Disorders
  • And more…

Identifying Chronic Pain Origins

Chronic pain can stem from various locations in the body, developing over an extended period. This pain can result from an inflammatory disease, a spinal condition, a previous injury, or general muscle and nerve pain. Pain can also originate simultaneously from the organs, bones, joints, and other parts of the body.

When it comes to identifying chronic pain, your neurologist can perform diagnostic testing to determine whether the pain origin stems from the muscle or nerve.

Muscle pain refers to pain that can result from an accident, injury, or muscle strain.

Nerve Pain (or neuropathic chronic pain) results from pressure applied to a nerve or from nerve damage. Nerve pain is common in conditions such as sciatica, diabetic neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more.

Diagnosing Neurologic Chronic Pain

Today, identifying and successfully diagnosing chronic pain origins has been made possible with the support of comprehensive neurological testing. Neurologists use low-intervention testing, including NCS, EMG & EEG, as well as imaging, such as MRI and CT scans, to gain insights into patient health and pain origins.

NCS – Nerve Conduction Studies

For patients battling ongoing nerve-related symptoms such as continuous numbness or tingling, a nerve stimulation test may be performed to assess the health of the nerves within a specific area of the body.

By receiving an electrical pulse through electrodes connected to the skin, nerve response time can be assessed through a monitor to identify abnormal activity.

EMG – Electromyography

For patients experiencing stiffness, soreness, and ongoing pain in localized regions, your doctor may perform an EMG test to measure muscle response to nerve stimulation.

By inserting a very small needle placed through the skin into the muscle that acts like a recorder (much like Karaoke for the muscles), muscle speed and reaction time are assessed to detect abnormalities within the neuromuscular system. This test can help determine whether chronic pain symptoms are due to nerve damage, muscle damage, or both.

EEG – Electroencephalogram

For patients experiencing symptoms affecting the neuroskeletal region, such as ongoing migraines, TBI (traumatic brain injury), or seizures, an EEG test may be performed to detect any abnormalities within the brain’s electrical channels in real time.

MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Patients dealing with medical concerns that require a detailed view of inside the body can benefit from an MRI. MRI captures high-resolution images of the brain, spinal cord, and soft tissues, all while being non-evasive and relatively quick.

Your neurologist may order an MRI to identify a wide range of conditions and abnormalities, from soft tissue injuries to neurological disorders.

CT Scan – Computerized Tomography

Patients that require the highest level of detailed imaging often benefit from CT Scans. From identifying fractures and bone injuries to assessing the extent of internal bleeding or tumors, CT Scans can provide critical information to help diagnose patients.

While CT Scans do require a much higher level of radiation than MRIs, their ability to identify serious risks like hemorrhages, brain injuries, and strokes. can often outweigh the risks.

Life After a Chronic Pain Diagnosis

The silver lining? You can manage your chronic pain and even cure it with a proper diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan from your medical provider.

Research shows that medically supported patients generally experience less drug dependence and avoid undergoing unnecessary, questionable procedures.

Individualized treatment for chronic pain varies from patient to patient; however, standard treatments for chronic pain include but are not limited to nerve stimulation, lifestyle changes, steroid injections, analgesic medications, natural treatments, including CBD/medical marijuana, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and surgery when medically necessary.

Working with a team of dedicated medical professionals to address chronic pain symptoms is the first step to recovery.

Don’t delay! Address your pain now!  

A Message From Dr. Kandel

“Whenever I treat a patient with chronic pain, I’d like to make sure that they understand that there are two components, the physical and the emotional. Very much like the dripping water faucet, which on day one is unremarkable, at one week, a bit annoying, but that one month is intolerable.

What makes that change? The drip is the same at one day and one month. However, I explained to my patients that it goes from pain on day one to suffering, which is pain plus the emotional component due to the loss of serotonin and other brain chemicals. As time goes on, it becomes suffering.

Both aspects of chronic pain need to be addressed if the patient is to achieve the best outcome. That’s why I frequently work with psychologists, psychotherapists, and specialists in Neurofeedback, as well as brain stimulation. Utilizing a comprehensive approach seems to provide the very best outcome for the patient.”

After all, the only thing you have to lose is your pain!

Dr. Joseph Kandel portrait

Joseph Kandel, MD

Board Certified Neurologist
Serving Naples and Fort Myers, FL

Feel free to share this with the people in your life who may benefit from this information! For more insights on neurology, check out our weekly tips on our Neurology Office Facebook page.

“To Cure Sometimes, To Heal Often, To Comfort Always”

Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates

Concierge medicine without the concierge price”

Related Posts