You may be apprehensive about going to a spine specialist, especially if it’s your first time being referred to one. However, your initial consultation with a doctor specializing in conditions affecting the spine and its related parts can be productive and beneficial if you make an effort to be as prepared as possible. Keep the following tips in mind as you prepare for your appointment. Also, know that most spine specialists truly want to make a genuine effort to enhance your quality of life.
If it will be your first time going to a spine specialist (or that particular specialist), arrive about 15–20 minutes early for your appointment to give yourself a chance to sign in, fill out any necessary paperwork, and confirm your insurance is accepted. You can always use whatever time is left until you’re seen to relax and prepare yourself mentally for your visit.
Go beyond saying your back or neck hurts. A spine specialist will have a better idea of what physical assessments or tests to perform if he or she knows what’s going on with your spine and how your symptoms are affecting you. Your discussion about your spine-related discomfort should include details about:
• What seems to trigger your pain and what makes it become less noticeable
• Whether you’ve had previous spine-related problems
• Any underlying medical conditions you have that could affect your spine (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, or past issues with cancer)
• Medications you’re currently taking and attempts you’ve made at self-care
There’s a reason a spine specialist may ask about such things as whether you smoke, consume alcohol, or get regular exercise. This information may be used to determine what is contributing to your discomfort and the type of treatments you’ll likely benefit from. Therefore, it’s important to be honest when answering questions of this nature and to remember you’re not being judged.
Your consultation with a spine specialist shouldn’t be a one-way conversation. Be active and involved in discussions, and ask questions. Most specialists appreciate patients who actively take charge of conversations and drive the focus to what matters most to them concerning their aches and pains. Make your appointment as productive as possible by asking about things such as:
• What you can expect from suggested treatments
• The nature of your condition based on what the specialist has observed so far
• Recommendations on what you may be able to do to manage your symptoms better
• Why the specialist is recommending certain treatments but not other ones you may have read about while doing your own research online
For example, your spine specialist may recommend having one of a variety of surgical procedures, including spinal fusion alternatives. Santa Monica patients could continue the discussion by asking whether treatment methods that worked for friends or family members might be effective for them as well.
If you’re going to a spine specialist to get a more specific treatment plan than what your regular doctor recommended, make sure to follow through with it. Should there be any confusion about some parts of your treatment plan, contact the specialist. It’s better to get clarification instead of simply skipping things you don’t fully understand. It’s equally important to follow through with:
• Tests you may need to schedule with another healthcare provider
• Physical therapy or rehab appointments
• Recommendations for returning to your normal activities following a spine-related injury
Lastly, don’t be afraid to get additional opinions after your initial consultation with a spine specialist. Simply being referred to a specialist doesn’t mean you’re obligated to receive care from that individual. In some instances, scheduling more than one consultation may give you a better idea of the available options so you can make a well-informed decision about what’s best for you.
If you’re having sudden, severe, or long-term pain in your back or neck, consulting a Santa Monica spine surgeon may be the key to prompt diagnosis and treatment. At The Spine Institute, our physicians have years of experience treating issues of spinal health. Our cutting-edge methods and pioneering specialists lead the industry when it comes to surgical and non-surgical innovations and helping patients get back on their feet as soon as possible. Call our friendly staff today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.