Wednesday, April 8

Tuning in on Back Pain

Full article from NewScientist:

TUNING forks, brushes and erasers can all help to quickly and cheaply reveal which painkiller to prescribe for back pain.

From a patient's description, doctors struggle to distinguish between neuropathic pain from nerve damage, such as in sciatica, and pain from inflammation, yet each requires a different painkiller. Only expensive tests such as MRI scans reveal the source precisely, leading Joachim Scholz of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his colleagues to look for a quicker, cheaper way.

The team compiled a list of quick questions and physical tests and assessed the response of patients diagnosed with each type of pain. From this, they whittled the list down to six questions and 10 physical tests that included rubbing brushes, safety pins, tuning forks and pencil erasers on the back. Together, the tests can show whether or not the pain is neuropathic (PLoS Medicine, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000047).

The whole list takes just 15 minutes to complete and also distinguishes between three types of neuropathic pain.

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