An Algorithmic Approach to the Physical Exam for the Pain Medicine Practitioner: A Review of the Literature with Multidisciplinary Consensus

Sayed E. Wahezi, Robert Duarte, Chong Kim, Nalini Sehgal, Charles Argoff, Kristina Michaud, Michael Luu, Joseph Gonnella, Lynn Kohan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Increased utilization of telemedicine has created a need for supplemental pain medicine education, especially for the virtual physical assessment of the pain patient. Traditional clinical training utilizes manual and tactile approaches to the physical examination. Telemedicine limits this approach and thus alternative adaptations are necessary to acquire information needed for sound clinical judgement and development of a treatment plan. Clinical assessment of pain is often challenging given the myriad of underlying etiologies contributing to the sensory experience. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the use of virtual and telemedicine visits, further complicating the ease of assessing patients in pain. The increased reliance on telemedicine visits requires clinicians to develop skills to obtain objective information from afar. While eliciting a comprehensive history and medication assessment are performed in a standard fashion via telemedicine, a virtual targeted physical examination is a new endeavor in our current times. In order to appropriately diagnose and treat patients not directly in front of you, a pivot in education adaptations are necessary. OBJECTIVE: To summarize best care practices in the telemedicine physical exam while presenting an algorithmic approach towards virtual assessment for the pain practitioner. DESIGN: Review of the literature and expert multidisciplinary panel opinion. SETTING: Nationally recognized academic tertiary care centers. SUBJECTS: Multidisciplinary academic experts in pain medicine. METHODS: Expert consensus opinion from the literature review. RESULTS: An algorithm for the virtual physical exam for pain physicians was created using literature review and multidisciplinary expert opinion. CONCLUSIONS: The authors here present simple, comprehensive algorithms for physical exam evaluations for the pain physician stemming from a review of the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1489-1528
Number of pages40
JournalPain medicine (Malden, Mass.)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 31 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Algorithmic Approach for Pain Physical Exam
  • Algorithmic Approach for Physical Exam
  • Telemedicine Exam
  • Virtual Medicine
  • Virtual Physical Exam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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