An accurate pain diagnosis is key to developing the right treatment plan for pain relief. To diagnose chronic pain conditions, special tests and techniques are crucial for discovering the root of the problem. Musculoskeletal pain conditions (pain conditions that affect the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones) can affect all major areas of the body including the:

  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Wrists
  • Back (upper and lower)
  • Hips
  • Legs
  • Knees
  • Feet

Tests and techniques used to diagnose pain

There are many methods and techniques available to use in the diagnosis of musculoskeletal pain. Depending on where your pain is located, and its severity, your doctor may use one of the following diagnostic methods:

CT or CAT scans

CT (computer tomography) or CAT (computer axial tomography) scans get a detailed — and, if necessary, three-dimensional — look at the bones by using X-rays to produce an image of the area in pain on a monitor.


MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is used to examine soft tissues like muscles, cartilage, ligaments and tendons. MRI produces clear images of the body by using a large magnet and radio waves.


Discography uses contrast dye injected into the spinal disc that is assumed to be the cause for pain. The dye outlines the damaged areas in the X-rays taken.


EMG (electromyography) allows doctors to evaluate how the muscles move. During the procedure, very fine needles are inserted into the muscles to measure their response to signals from the brain and spinal cord.

Bone scans

Bone scans are used to diagnose and monitor infections, fractures, or other conditions of the bones. A bone scan uses a small amount of radioactive material injected into the bloodstream that will collect in the areas of the bone that are damaged or irregular.

Ultrasound imaging

Also called sonography, this test uses high-frequency sound waves gathered by a transducer moved across the skin to obtain images inside the body. The high-frequency sound wave echoes are recorded and shown as a real-time visual image for evaluation.

If you would like to have your pain diagnosed and evaluated by one of our skilled pain specialists, give Cedar Rapids Pain Associates a call today at (319) 540-8251 to schedule an appointment.