Going to see a spine surgeon is an important step in seeking welcome relief from back, neck, or radiating nerve pain. However, appointments involve more than just getting a thorough physical examination and having a series of diagnostic tests. Since spine-related discomfort involves many potential causes and contributing factors, it’s also important for a spine specialist to gather as much information as possible from you to get a better idea of where to focus diagnostic and treatment efforts. Here are five of the most common questions likely to be asked in one form or another when you visit a Los Angeles spine surgeon.
1. When Did the Pain Start?
The purpose of this question is to have a point of reference to determine if the injury is likely acute (sudden) in nature or more progressive. With ongoing back pain, you might be asked when the symptoms started to get worse. If the reason for your visit is because of a sports injury, a work-related accident, or a car accident, you may be asked about the specific motions or movements involved with your injury.
2. Where Do You Feel Pain the Most?
The answer to this question will give a spine surgeon some clues about the possible pain sources to consider when performing tests. For example, pain that extends to your buttocks, thighs, legs, or one side of the body more than the other may be related to your sciatic nerve or a disc in your lower back that’s pinching a nerve.
3. What Seems to Make Your Symptoms Better or Worse?
To get a better idea of the movements that are likely triggering your symptoms, you may be asked about what seems to make your pain less noticeable and what causes discomfort to worsen. Your answers can also provide additional clues about the condition or abnormality that may be causing your pain. For instance, patients with a narrow spinal canal in the lower back (lumbar spinal stenosis) may experience more severe symptoms when lying down or bending backward due to changes in how nerves are compressed.
4. How Would You Describe Your Pain/Symptoms?
Two people can have the exact same source of spine pain yet experience very different symptoms, which is why you’ll be asked to describe your pain and/or related symptoms in as much detail as possible. Your answers can help the spine surgeon determine where to focus treatment efforts. When describing your pain, try to include:
- A general rating on a 1-10 scale of how much it bothers you
- Descriptive words that suggest what you are feeling (e.g. dull, throbbing, burning sensations, sharp, severe, pins-and-needles)
- How the pain progresses throughout your day
5. What Treatments/Remedies Have You Already Tried?
By the time you’ve been referred to a spine surgeon, you’ve probably tried some different treatment attempts and various remedies. Let the specialist know what you’ve tried, whether it’s over-the-counter medications, certain types of physical therapy, or even acupuncture or chiropractic care. You’ll likely be asked how much such efforts helped and how long you’ve tried them. This information can also be used to put together a more comprehensive and personalized treatment plan for you. Also, tell the spine surgeon about:
- A previous diagnosis you have received
- Results from any tests requested by other doctors
- Treatments you were most comfortable with
It’s just as important to ask questions about what’s being discussed or the treatments being recommended. Some patients also find it less stressful if they bring a friend or family member with them to their appointments. Doing so can also allow you to focus more on questions that come to mind. Another option is to schedule a follow-up visit to ask questions before any decisions about treatment possibilities or spine surgery are made. Get in touch with The Spine Institute if you’re interested in acquiring information on fusion surgery and back fusion alternatives. Los Angeles patients can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae to diagnose the source of their pain and help them find relief. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.