Back pain, be it mild or severe, can have a big impact on the way you’re able to live and enjoy your life. Too often people think that there isn’t much that can be done to help with the problem so they resist seeing their general practitioner, family doctor or even a back pain doctor. Other times, individuals finally decide to see a physician but don’t arrive at the appointment properly prepared which means they run the risk of not getting the best treatment they can possibly get.
That initial appointment should be taken seriously. Yes, it may just be a consultation but it’s also a time for you to determine if the doctor is someone you want to see again and who you want to treat you. The only way you can figure that out is to ask the right questions. It’s also important to make sure you provide the doctor with enough information to be able to properly answer your questions.
Here are some general questions to keep in mind when you visit a back pain doctor for the first time. Feel free to go to your consultation with a pen and paper in hand. It won’t faze your physician and it’ll help you more accurately remember the discussion.
Question 1: What is the usual course of diagnosis and treatment? This question is very patient specific and will depend on the types of symptoms you exhibit. Be prepared for a general answer unless you have red flag symptoms. Red flag symptoms are those like numbness and weakness in the leg. Red flag symptoms often mean that diagnostic imaging tests may be needed. If, however, you do not have red flag symptoms and the physician still suggests this expensive type of test, be suspicious. It doesn’t necessarily mean the doctor is dishonest or trying to cheat you out of your hard earned money, but he may be setting you up for unnecessary expenses.
Question 2: Are you willing to work with complementary and alternative health professionals? Some doctors are resistant to working with those outside the traditional medical field, going so far as to see massage therapists and chiropractors as quacks. A physician will probably not say this to you, but their general attitude towards these types of health professionals will give you an idea of that physician’s view. Back pain can be complex and it’s better that the back pain doctor you choose is willing to take a multidisciplinary approach.
Question 3: What are all the possible treatment options for back pain? When you ask this question, don’t expect that the doctor will be able to provide every conceivable treatment for every type of back pain that could possibly be out there. This question is more to gage whether your doctor is going to push expensive and unnecessary medications on you. This means you should be cautious if the back pain doctor’s main response to this question is pain medication and surgery. There is a time and place to use medication, but it should never be the only treatment option and it should only be used if your back pain is highly disruptive to your ability to function. Surgery should only be the solution of last resort for back pain.