Tuning forks, erasers used to diagnose back pain

Quick questions and tests can be substituted for expensive MRI test

Doctors have some new tools in their arsenal to fight back pain: tuning forks, erasers and brushes, New Scientist reports. When prescribing painkilling drugs based on a patient’s description, physicians often struggle to distinguish between neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage (as in sciatica, for example) or pain caused by inflammation, and performing an MRI test is expensive. Now, Joachim Scholz of Massachusetts General Hospital has found a cheaper and faster way: they made a list of questions and physical tests, assessing the response of patients who suffered from both types of pain. Their list of six questions and 10 physical tests, including rubbing brushes, safety pins, and pencil erasers on the back, can show if the pain is neuropathic. The list takes just 15 minutes to complete.

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