Have you ever wondered how doctors know which nerve root is the source of your chronic pain? Many of our patients wondered this too. As it turns out, it’s not as complicated as you may think. The dermatomes diagnostic tool allows us to find the source.
Dermatomes are areas of the skin that are innervated by a specific spinal nerve. When we know which dermatome is affected, we can narrow down the source of the pain. For example, if you have pain in your right arm, we would test the right arm dermatomes to see if they are affected. If they are, we can then determine that the source of your pain is coming from your right arm spinal nerve. This information can help us create a treatment plan based on the affected nerve roots that will provide you with relief.
Finding the Source for Diagnosis
There are a few different ways to test for dermatomes. One way is to use a needle electrode. This is a small, pointed electrode that is inserted into the skin. It’s used to measure the electrical activity in the muscles and nerves. This is a painless test, but it can be a little bit uncomfortable for some people.
When it comes to the source of your pain, specific nerves in the spine only affect certain areas of your body. These areas are called a dermatome, or an area of the skin that is supplied mainly by a specific nerve. For example, if you are feeling pain in your leg, the nerve in charge of that pain will be located in your lumbar (lower) spine or tail bone. Alternatively, if you are experiencing pain in your arm, the nerve affecting that area will not be located in your lumbar spine, but rather in your cervical (upper) or thoracic (mid) spine.
Dermatomes for Diagnosing Pain
Dermatomes can be helpful in diagnosing the source of your chronic pain. For example, If you are experiencing pain in any area of your body that is not innervated by the nerve in charge of that area, then the source of your pain is likely not coming from your spine. This information can be useful when it comes to finding a treatment plan that works for you.
During the diagnosis of your chronic pain, your physician may refer to a dermatome chart to assess which nerves in the spine may be causing your pain. At PMIR, we believe patients should be fully informed about their chronic pain. Our dermatome chart gives patients a better understanding of their condition, and what can be done to mitigate their pain.
Find Your Final Diagnosis
To learn more about dermatomes, or if you are experiencing chronic pain and would like to find out if the source is coming from your spine, please contact our office today. We would be happy to answer any of your questions!
Feel print to print our dermatome maps, and bring them to your next appointment with your pain specialist.