Personalized Pain Mapping

What is Personalized Pain Mapping (PPM)?

Personalized Pain Mapping is a precise, targeted, and personalized diagnostic approach we developed here at DISC to accurately identify a patient’s pain generator and spinal condition.   It involves a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging and injections to create a precise map of the spinal pain generator.  Our proven techniques ensure patients more accurate diagnosis and leads to a customized treatment solutions which exceeds patient expectations.

The process typically begins with a detailed assessment of the patient’s symptoms, including the type, location, and intensity of pain. This information helps spine surgeon determine which specific areas of the spine may be contributing to the pain. Diagnostic imaging techniques such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to visualize the structures of the spine and identify any abnormalities.

Once the potential pain generators are identified, personalized spine pain mapping may involve the use of diagnostic injections or nerve blocks to correlate the surgeon’s findings on image studies and patient described symptoms. These injections typically contain a local anesthetic and sometimes a corticosteroid. By targeting specific nerves or structures suspected of causing pain, our spine surgeon can assess whether the injection provides temporary relief or reduction in pain. This step helps confirm or rule out the suspected pain source.

Often called diagnostic pain management, PPM defines the problem by identifying the pain generator through the following approach:

  • Investigate: Listening carefully to the patient’s pain story, review all image studies and medical records, and past treatments
  • Examination: Perform a thorough physical examination
  • Explanation: Throughout the process, we educate our patients on their condition and medical options
  • Discussion: Our surgeon and you are a team. We will discuss your desired outcome and the pros and cons of our treatment recommendations to arrive at the best solution for you.
  • Decision: After our discussion, we will work with you to finalize a personalized treatment plan. It may be conservative, or we may administer diagnostic injections and move toward surgical pain management.

Personalized pain mapping and surgical pain management can give patients hope and peace of mind. PPM can accurately define a patient’s source of pain. Our DISC surgeon can customize patient treatment options to treat their pain source directly.  

Our Personalized Pain Mapping Program Three Step Approach:

We define the problem – We listen carefully – We ask targeted questions. We want to understand your pain, how it affects your daily life, and your desired outcome. We are here to instill hope and long-term pain relief for your future.

We thoroughly review your medical history, perform a physical examination, and we review your actual MRI and CT images ourselves and do not rely solely on the radiologist report. After studying the images, we can correlate clinically the best course of medical treatment needed. Then we discuss our findings with you and our next step, either conservative or personalized pain mapping, to identify the pain generator.

Our surgeons then can strategically apply diagnostic injections at the appropriate spinal level to relieve or confirm the patient’s pain generator. After the pain generator is identified and an accurate diagnosis is obtained, our surgeons can customize the patient’s treatment option that best fits their desired lifestyle.

Diagnostic Lumbar Pain Injections Utilized at DISC

We have a close network of trusted pain management providers that offer similar pain mapping techniques for our patients suffering from cervical spine conditions. We collaborate to identify pain sources and then apply the appropriate treatment options that best suit our patients.

Why is DISC and our Personalized Pain Mapping Successful?

Your first visit to Desert Institute for Spine Care may look and feel a little different than you’ve experienced with other spine specialists.

We listen carefully to identify the patient’s pain and how it affects their daily life. We get to know you and your goals. We give you all the information needed during your visits and throughout the process.

Our ideas about your pain are explained clearly, honestly, and realistically every step of the way. We want you to be informed to make the best decision and be at ease with your personalized treatment plan.


In our experience, personal pain mapping helps the patient identify the underlying cause of pain and refines their diagnosis. We then treat that pain with new emerging techniques, called surgical pain management. This group of surgical options is called endoscopic spine surgery and are the least invasive yet most effective surgical techniques in spine surgery developed at DISC by Anthony Yeung, MD.(retired)

Why Do Patients Seek Second Opinions After Failed Pain Management or Spine Surgery?

Every day, we see patients who have seen multiple spine specialists, who have had various interventions, spinal injections, and even spine surgery. They are still in pain, anxious, and confused about what is causing their pain and their diagnosis. They seek second and even third opinions from spine specialists searching for hope and solutions to their pain.

A recent study found that  88% of patients left a second opinion with a different or refined diagnosis. 

The success of a second opinion after failed spine treatment starts with an accurate and refined diagnosis.

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Dr. Mark Wang Smiling After Surgery
Doctors performing surgery in the OR

Many factors can determine failed spine treatment:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Patient unrealistic treatment expectations
  • Short-term relief but pain returns
  • Received partial relief, but pain still exists elsewhere in the spine 

Pain management focuses on treating symptoms with repeated steroid and trigger point injections, utilizing interventional procedures like radiofrequency ablation.  Unfortunately, these injections and procedures usually provide short-term pain relief and only last six months or less.

Instead of teaching you how to manage your pain, PPM and surgical pain management focus on diagnosing and treating the underlying SOURCE of your pain. DISC surgeons receive specific education and training utilizing diagnostic injections to identify the root cause of pain. Then they treat that pain with newer, less invasive endoscopic spine surgery techniques.

Doctors Talking with Patients

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Can Personalized Pain Mapping Relieve My Pain?

Personalized pain mapping is not a pain treatment. However, PPM is a comprehensive solution that diagnoses and identifies the actual pain generator that patients are experiencing. Once your pain generator is identified, our surgeons can tailor treatment options to your specific needs. We may discover a nonsurgical solution rather than you undergo unnecessary surgery that may not solve your problem.

These treatment options may involve nonsurgical methods practiced by interventional or traditional pain management specialists because your condition is not ideal for our newly developed surgical pain management techniques. Also, nonsurgical options may include – muscle reconditioning, optimal joint mobility, and flexibility techniques.

If you are a good candidate for surgical pain management, one of our least invasive procedures, such as endoscopic laser or radiofrequency rhizotomy, will provide pain relief.

Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Have you experienced failed pain management or spine surgery?

The spine surgeons at DISC look forward to helping you achieve relief after failed pain management or spine surgery. Contact us today to learn more about our personal pain mapping program.


Our spine health blog features up-to-date spine education and expert spine tips from our spine specialists here at DISC.