Top 6 Questions to Ask Your Spine Doctor

December 11, 2020
doctor talking to patient about their healthcare

About 50% of Americans of working age experience back pain each year. This health complaint is a leading cause of disability and one of the most common reasons for taking time off work.

Sometimes, back pain is due to prolonged sitting or poor exercise form. Other times, it may be caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, or spondylolisthesis, or a more serious condition. The only way to determine its exact cause is to talk with a specialist.

Before booking an appointment, make sure you know what questions to ask your spine doctor. Consider your symptoms and overall health, as well as any pre-existing conditions you have.

If this is your second or third visit to the doctor, you may want to ask about surgery and what it involves.

Not sure where to start? Here are some questions to bring up during your consultation!

1. What’s Causing These Issues?

First things first, try to find out what caused your back problems. Perhaps there’s something you can do to prevent them from getting worse.

Scoliosis, for example, affects six to nine million Americans. It causes an abnormal curvature of the spine to the left or right, which can lead to back pain and poor posture.

The primary risk factors for developing this condition may include:

  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle habits, such as carrying heavy backpacks or sitting for long periods
  • Muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular conditions
  • Osteoporosis

Your spine doctor will recommend the best course of action based on the cause of your condition.

He will also consider the location, degree, and extent of the curvature in your back. If your symptoms are mild, you may benefit from bracing and other conservative measures.

2. Is There Anything I Can Do to Slow Its Progression?

Most back issues tend to worsen over time. The longer you wait, the higher the risk of complications.

Spinal stenosis, for instance, can affect the cervical or lumbar spine, causing degenerative changes.

This condition is common in people of all ages, especially those over 60 years old. It’s extremely painful and may lead to nerve damage, bowel or bladder dysfunction, and balance problems.

While there is no non surgical cure for spinal stenosis, you can slow its progression through lifestyle changes and physical therapy. Epidural injections and oral medications may help relieve pain and improve your mobility.

Discuss your options with a spine doctor.

3. What Treatment Options Do You Offer?

Several types of spine specialists exist, and each uses a different approach to back pain treatment. Options should include both non surgical and surgical options if warrented.

Our doctors provide both surgical and non-invasive treatment options. If you book an appointment, we’ll determine the cause of your problems and recommend an appropriate treatment.

A herniated disc, for example, may or may not require surgery. Depending on its severity, it may respond well to injections and physical therapy . In some cases, herniated discs may heal on their own.

4. What Is a Realistic Outcome for My Back Problems?

One of the most important questions to ask your spine doctor is what to expect in the near future.

Will your back problems worsen over the next few years or go away within weeks or months? Is it possible to experience new symptoms that can affect your quality of life?

The answer to these questions typically depends on the patient’s age, overall health, and specific symptoms. His fitness level and lifestyle habits matter, too.

A physically active man in his 20s, for instance, is more likely to recover from a herniated disc than a 60-year old man with a sedentary lifestyle. Beware that certain factors, such as smoking, bad eating, and prolonged sitting, can make your back problems worse in the long run.

5. What Does the Procedure Involve?

If you need surgery for lumbar stenosis or other back problems, assess your options ahead of time. Ask your spine doctor about the different types of surgery, what they involve, and how long it takes to recover.

Try to find out more about the type of incision required in your case. Depending on your particular situation, your doctor may be able to perform minimally invasive spine surgery. This type of procedure has a shorter recovery time and a reduced risk of complications than open surgery.

6. What Can I Do for Pain Relief?

Back pain can be excruciating. Whether you opt for surgery or conservative treatment, it’s important to learn how to manage your symptoms. That’s one of the first questions to ask your spine doctor.

Bracing, therapeutic exercises, ice therapy, muscle relaxants, and NSAIDs are all potential options. Their efficacy depends on the problems you’re dealing with.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are typically the first line of treatment for back pain. Unfortunately, they carry serious side effects and shouldn’t be used for long periods. 

However, if the pain persists, he may prescribe muscle relaxants and/or narcotics. Some types of antidepressants may be helpful, too.

Know What Questions to Ask Your Spine Doctor

Now that you know what questions to ask your spine doctor, go ahead and book an appointment. Just make sure you provide enough information to help the doctor address your concerns.

Take weight training, for example. While it’s true that exercise may help prevent and relieve back pain, too much of it can do more harm than good.

If you have spinal stenosis, you may need to avoid heavy squats, military presses, and other exercises that place stress on the spine. Ask your doctor about it and then adjust your workouts accordingly.

So, are you ready to see a spine doctor? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out to our team to discuss your needs and see how we can help!

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